The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exposed inequalities and brought to light  weaknesses in our social, political and economic systems to address them. Women's leadership is proving increasingly significant during this time, with a number of women being at the forefront of organizations and institutions carrying out responses to the health crisis and promoting social justice. This has ensured that equality issues do not move to the back burner, and proved that diverse styles of leadership can benefit societies. However, despite these milestones, women report that extra pressure and new burdens in exercising their leadership influence have surfaced. 

An inclusive leadership culture is a necessary condition to allow a more sustainable and peaceful future to emerge from the current level of disruption, uncertainty and interconnectedness. With this in mind, the UNSSC has reinforced its commitment to serve women leaders of the UN System amidst the new challenges created by the pandemic. One of our flagship leadership development initiatives – the Leadership, Women and the UN – has been redesigned as an expanded online learning journey and will be offered from 1 September until 18 December 2020.

The interagency initiative, running since 2015, has welcomed nearly 500 participants at the P4-P5 level, from over 50 UN entities across 78 different duty stations. An impact assessment conducted in 2018 with alumnae, recognized the programme for being instrumental in contributing to professional growth and increased leadership readiness – with 76 per cent of alumnae experiencing career change1 and linking this to the application of the learning acquired. The 2020 edition is launched to further such positive impact. Today the need for safe spaces where women leaders can engage in dialogues on the challenges experienced and acquire novel knowledge and skills is as important as it has ever been. The programme will provide such a platform and through a variety of novel learning methodologies will support individual and collective leadership readiness to drive transformational change.


The 2020 Leadership, Women and the UN: a Virtual Leadership Development Journey to drive  

The new virtual learning experience will feature two cohorts running in parallel to accommodate the needs and preferences of staff connecting from different time zones. Each cohort will welcome a maximum of 25 participants for a truly immersive experience. The 50 selected women will join in a three-month learning journey from 1 September until 18 December. The curriculum unfolds through a varied and dynamic methodology in three main steps:

1. Preliminary phase. A four-week self-paced phase for participants to deepen awareness around diverse leadership styles and approaches through a questionnaire to prompt individual reflections on leadership needs, styles and aspirations; a 360-degree leadership and personality assessment to provide insights into personal leadership strengths and areas for further development; and an individual coaching session of 90 min to de-brief on results and explore self-defined development goals.

2. Core Programme.  Eight weeks of interactive learning designed around asynchronous activities and synchronous learning experiences led on Zoom web conferencing platform by a faculty comprised of experts, practitioners, established leaders, and programme alumnae. Content explored will include: leadership skills and mindsets to promote change, innovation and inclusive culture, the gender and cultural aspects of leadership, leadership influence, political acumen and strategic negotiation.

3. Consolidation phase. The learning journey will conclude with a final phase where participants will be further supported for four weeks to consolidate and apply learning through one individual coaching session, a curated leadership commitment activity and a final reflections questionnaire.

Upon successful completion of the programme, participants will have the possibility of becoming part of the Alumnae Community to further individual and collective leadership journeys, establish mutually beneficial knowledge sharing mechanisms, leverage on diverse expertise and skillsets, and forge partnerships to promote systemic change.

If it is true that leadership is a life long journey, travelling becomes even more inspiring and motivating if done collectively!  If you are interested in joining a community of women leaders committed to expand and renew leadership approaches with deep awareness on the gender and cultural dimensions of leadership, you can find more information on the programme by clicking on this link.

1 With 19% of these alumnae reporting vertical progression and 57% horizontal change. See (2018) Stories of Impact, UNSSC.



The opinions expressed in our blog posts are solely those of the authors. They do not reflect the opinions or views of UNSSC, the United Nations or its members.