Women's Progress

How much have women advanced since Beijing?

In a declaration, the 54th Commission on the Status of Women broadly concluded that much progress for women has been made since the 1995 Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women. But it also stated that many "challenges and obstacles" remain before the agreements forged in Beijing are fully implemented.

"Action is needed where it matters most - in the lives of girls who do not have access to education or training," said Rachel Mayanja, a UN assistant secretary general and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, in remarks at the end of Commission.

"We must act to empower women who risk death and disability in childbirth; those who work long hours for little, unequal, or no pay. We must commit ourselves to ensuring a place for women at the peace table, on the village council and in national parliaments. By ensuring equal opportunities for women and men, we promote the progress of our entire society," said Ms. Mayanja.

Ms. Mayanja also hosted a presentation, held 3 March at the UN, that assessed the degree to which women have achieved higher levels of representation in government, civil society, corporations, and at the UN.

Aparna Mehrotra, the UN's focal point for women, reviewed some statistics. In 1995, the percent of women in national parliaments was 11.3 percent. "Today, it is slightly up, to 18.8 percent," said Ms. Mehrotra. "So there has been progress. But I don't say it is great progress."

Emma Sabin, a vice-president at Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that helps businesses become more inclusive of women, said similarly incremental progress has been made in the corporate world. "In 1995, point 1 (.1) percent of women were chief executive officers at the top 1,000 companies. Today, we are at 3 percent."

Ms. Sabin said she believes more women will rise to senior management levels as women take seats on corporate boards, noting that percentage has risen from 9.6 in 1995 to 15.2 today.

Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Bahá'í International Community to the UN, spoke about the contribution that civil society has made in helping women achieve greater representation. "Women's groups have been one of the main vectors through which women's needs and goals have been communicated to governments," said Ms. Dugal.