Women working together at laptop

Women’s Leadership – Where Do We Stand?

September 2020 marked the 25th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace. There, 189 countries committed to equal rights and opportunities for all women and girls.

In 1995, UN Women created a “Declaration and Platform for Action,” recognizing that the odds were systematically stacked against women and organized to address them.

In 25 years, how have these declarations translated to action?

It is sobering to note that not a single country has achieved full gender equality in practice in 2020. This is based on a framework of:

  • Economic participation and opportunity
  • Educational attainment
  • Health and survival
  • Political empowerment

Basic criteria. Life-defining criteria.

The top 10 countries are:

  1. Iceland
  2. Norway
  3. Finland
  4. Sweden
  5. Nicaragua
  6. New Zealand
  7. Ireland
  8. Spain
  9. Rwanda
  10. Germany

The United States is 53rd.

The goal for the 25th Anniversary was to take stock and reflect on progress. The hope was to point to groundbreaking change for gender equality. Instead, with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, even the limited gains made in the past decades are at risk of being rolled back.

From the UN Secretary-General’s Brief:

The pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems, which are in turn amplifying the impacts of the pandemic.

Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex.

Yet in the face of these negative impacts, as we’ve pointed out in a previous blogpost, “Revisiting Gender Equity,” a new women’s leadership movement seems to be taking shape with a global call for “Generation Equality.”

The mantra of this movement is succinctly put by Melinda Gates, one of the most powerful women in philanthropy and praised by the UN-Secretary General as “visionary.”

This is how we emerge from the pandemic in all of its dimensions: by recognizing that women are not just victims of a broken world; the can be architects of a better one.

In our next blog posts, we will explore the ways this is being done around the world.


The Institute for Women’s Leadership was established in 2021. Located at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, the Institute provides participants the opportunity to expand transformational leadership skills, building a leadership a pipeline for Northeast Wisconsin. The Institute both embraces the Wisconsin Idea and serves the core and select missions of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in its commitment to inclusion, civic engagement, educational opportunity at all levels, and community-based partnerships. The Institute seeks to fulfill critical needs in the region and contribute to a robust, more broadly engaged and representative professional workforce and leadership. For more information visit the website www.uwgb.edu/womens-leadership 


International Leadership Association. “’Building Forward Better’ – Why Women’s Leadership Matters.” Amanda Ellis, 12 August 2020.
UN Women. Annual Report 2019-2020.
World Economic Forum. “Global Gender Gap Report 2020.” Insight Report.

One thought on “Women’s Leadership – Where Do We Stand?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *