"During my half century working in the United Nations, women have made great strides forward but it is clearly not enough," Dame Margaret Anstee told women and men gathered at the IAEA's Vienna headquarters on 8 March 2005 to celebrate International Women's Day.
Although advances had been made, women remain few and far between in the higher echelons of nearly all the UN organizations, Dame Anstee said. "We still need more women pioneers."
At the IAEA, 82% of all professional post are filled by men. Women hold four of the Agency's 35 top director jobs, with Dr. Anna Maria Cetto breaking through the ranks to become the first woman in the IAEA's history to reach the Deputy Director General level in December 2002.
Dame Anstee said the responsibility now rests with UN organizations to translate established policies into effective action, without tokenism. "We need a United Nations that does not simply reflect the rest of the world; we need a United Nations that takes the lead and sets an example," she said.
Using her own life and experiences - including being the first woman to lead a UN Peacekeeping operation - Dame Anstee cited numerous challenges to the empowerment of women. These include overcoming discrimination and prejudice; sex stereotyping; the unwillingness of too many capable, qualified women to take advantages of job opportunities; the challenge of "breaking through the glass ceiling without plunging over the glass precipice"; and the importance of networking.
For many women, the world is a vastly changed place to that which Dame Anstee faced in the 1940s, when she was forced to resign from her job in the British foreign service when she got married. Today women are not only more aware of their rights; they are more able to exercise them, as noted in a message from the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.
Mr. Annan spoke of the tangible progress that had been made since the Beijing conference on eliminating gender discrimination was held 10 years ago.
He said there was no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.
"No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, or to reduce infant and maternal mortality. No other policy is as sure to improve nutrition and promote health - including the prevention of HIV/AIDS. No other policy is as powerful in increasing the chances of education for the next generation. And I would venture that no policy is more important in preventing conflict, or in achieving reconciliation after a conflict has ended," the UN Secretary-General said.
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