Seven out of ten candidates to be the next U.N. Secretary-General were women. However, Antonio Gueterres has been selected. Once again, the UN has failed to produce its first female leader. Many recognized the benefits that would come with having a woman leader: she could stand as a representative for women’s empowerment worldwide. With gender equality currently being a primary issue for the UN, a woman leader seemed like a good way to further tackle the problem.
Even so, the members of the Security Council–primarily the U.S. and Russia– were not able to agree on a female candidate, and Gueterres was therefore selected. Was this appointment still a manifestation of gender inequality permeating the UN? Perhaps. A former US envoy to Libya, Karin Landgren, stated: “Sexism, unconscious bias, the difficulty for women to penetrate men’s hearing all played a role in elevating weak male candidates over stronger women, I suspect.” There could certainly be an unconscious bias towards women. In the political sphere, women are often judged differently than men on their demeanor, stances, appearance, and speech. Therefore, there were likely inherent disadvantages for these candidates, solely for their being women.
Nevertheless, the appointment of a new Secretary-General cannot be founded upon this one factor. Yes, it is important to have a higher representation of women in the UN, and it would certainly be a great step forward to have one as the head. However, if having a woman to lead would lead to disunity, bitterness, and disagreement among member states, then perhaps the next selection will be a more appropriate one. I fully agree that having a woman leader is of high importance, but it cannot be treated as the only issue on the table. The selected leader, Gueterres, led the UN High Commission for Refugees for a decade. The refugee crisis is an urgent matter, and his expertise in the subject is comforting.
What do you guys think? Should the UN have set a flat standard and put more precedence on a female leader, or do you think that they made the right choice in pushing that matter aside for the sake of more thorough agreement? How else might the UN show the priority it has for women’s empowerment?