International Women’s Day: Leading female personalities – International Part 2

In this part of our Women’s Day special, we will present women who are leading international organizations and Institutions. From the new Director General of the WTO, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, these women – like many others – have been the first females holding these positions.

We also created a gallery of fascinating women from different fields: activists, politicians and poets, actresses, scientists and artists, who – throughout their lives – have inspired many.

(c) pixabay/Hansuan Fabregas

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General, WTO

IMF Photographic archives

The 66 year old Nigerian is serving as Director General of the World Trade Organization since March 1, 2021 – as the first female, first African person in the history of the organization. Prior to this, she served two terms as Finance Minister of Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, and a short period as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Okonjo-Iweala also spent 25 years at the World Bank as a development economist. The mother of four has been named African of the year by Forbes Africa in 2020 and throughout her life has received numerous awards and honorary degrees.

„Investing in women is smart economics, and investing in girls, catching them upstream, is even smarter economics.”

Read our portrait about her here.

Helga Maria Schmid, Secretary General, OSCE

(c) OSCE/Micky Kroell

Helga Maria Schmid was appointed to the post of Secretary General of the OSCE in December 2020 for a three-year term, also being the first woman ever to hold this office. Prior, she was Political Adviser to Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel and Head of Cabinet to Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer; and just before her appointment as OSCE Secretary General, she was Secretary General for the European External Action Service.

„As the first woman Secretary-General of the OSCE, I aim to build awareness of the value and importance of equal rights and opportunities for women and men. It is particularly important for an organization like the OSCE – that works to promote peace and stability – to inspire others to follow.“

N1 Sarajevo, 2021

Ghada Fathy Ismail Waly, Director-General, UNOV, Executive Director, UNODC

(c) UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe 

Ghada Fathy Ismail Waly is the first woman, first Arab and first African to lead the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, a position which she took up in February 2020. She is also Director‑General of the UN Office at Vienna. Prior to joining the United Nations, Dr. Waly was Minister of Social Solidarity in Egypt.

Ms. Waly brings to the position over thirty years of experience in the field of sustainable development, poverty reduction and social protection, women and youth empowerment. Currently Minister of Social Solidarity, a position she assumed in 2014, Ms. Waly has developed the national anti-drug strategy, led a nation-wide drug awareness and prevention campaign among youth and pioneered innovative programmes to rehabilitate and reintegrate persons with substance use disorders into society. (source: UNODC)

I am working hard with my team to promote gender parity and geographic diversity within UNOV/UNODC, through the implementation of our new enhanced Geography Action Plan, and of the UNOV/UNODC Strategy for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.”

UN Website

Ursula von der Leyen, President, EU Commission

(c) European Union – EP

The Belgian-born German politician was the first woman to serve as Germany’s Minister of Defence (2013-2019), before she became elected as the first female President of the European Commission in July 2019. Furthermore, she served as Federal Minister of Labor and Social Affairs (2009-2013) and Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (2005-2009). The mother of seven is regarded as one of the most influential and powerful women in Europe. Von der Leyen, who is an outspoken advocate for female rights, has an extremely diverse education: she studied archaeology (1976-1977) before she changed to study political economics at the University of Göttingen and Münster, from 1978 onwards at the London School of Economics and Political Science. In 1980 she started studying Medicine and later worked as an assistant doctor.

“Gender equality is a core principle of the European Union, but it is not yet reality. In business, politics and society as a whole, we can only reach our full potential if we use all of our talent and diversity. Using only half of the population, half of the ideas or half of the energy is not good enough”

Find the source here

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director, IMF

(c) World Bank Group/Grant Ellis

Kristalina Georgieva is the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund since October 2019. She was the only nominee for the job and is the first person from an emerging country to hold this office. Between 2014 and 2016, she served as Vice-President of the European Commission under Jean-Claude Juncker.

In 2010, she was named “European of the Year” and “Commissioner of the Year” by European Voice in recognition for her leadership in the EU’s response to humanitarian crises. In October 2020, she received the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished International Leadership Award in acknowledgement of exceptional and distinctive contributions during her career of public service. In 2020, she was included in the Times magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. (source IMF)

“If women have equal opportunities to reach their full potential, the world would not only be fairer, it would be more prosperous as well”


Women who inspire – Across fields

„What I want young women and girls to know is: You are powerful and your voice matters.“

Kamala Harris, first female US Vice President, Photo: United States Senate

„No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.“

Michelle Obama, author, activist, former First Lady of the USA, Photo: Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

„It actually doesn’t take much to be considered a difficult woman. That’s why there are so many of us.“

Jane Goodall, English primatologist and anthropologist, Photo: (c) Martin Langhorst

„We proved that it does matter what you do and that no one is too small to make a difference“

Greta Thunberg, environmental activist, Photo: (c) HBF/Lechner

„One ist not born, but rather becomes a woman.“

Simone de Beauvoir, French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist, and social theorist, Photo: Simone de Beauvoir: (c) Moshe Milner, Crop of File:Flickr – Government Press Office (GPO)

„Ich denke, es ist Zeit, daran zu erinnern: Die Vision des Feminismus ist nicht eine „weibliche Zukunft“. Es ist eine menschliche Zukunft. Ohne Rollenzwänge, ohne Macht- und Gewaltverhältnisse, ohne Männerbündelei und Weiblichkeitswahn.“

Johanna Dohnal, Austrian politician and the first Austrian Minister for Women, Photo: Johanna Dohnal mit Elisabeth Orth (c) Manfred Werner/Tsui

„I am not the first woman to multitask. I am not the first woman to work and have a baby – there are many women who have done this before.“

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, Photo: (c) Used with permission from the Labour Party

„Every day, women and girls are finding incredible confidence and taking risks. When they change one mind, pretty soon, they have changed one tradition. That changed tradition has changed a village. That one village has changed a country. That new reality means new opportunities for themselves and their daughters.“

Jill Biden, American educator and author, First Lady of the USA, Photo: (c)

„The way forward isn’t a road we take, the way forward is a road women make.“

Amanda Gorman, poet and activist, quote from „The Way Forward“, Photo: (c) Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from Washington D.C, United States, Link to source

„If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?“

Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, Photo: (c) Claude Truong-Ngoc / Wikimedia Commons

„Women really need to support each other, we really do. So, I guess I would say be brave enough to acknowledge that things are not there yet and support each other.“

Emma Watson, actress and activist, UN Women Goodwill ambassador, Photo: (c) Georges Bird, License Link here

„Nach „lieben“ ist „helfen“ das schönste Zeitwort der Welt.“

Bertha von Suttner, Austrian-Bohemian pacifist and novelist, Photo: K. u. k. Hof-Atelier C. Pietzner, Wien – Bertha Freiin von Suttner, die Vorkämpferin der Friedensbewegung. In: Wiener Bilder, 8 (1903), Nr. 24 (10 June 1903), p. 5

„Feminism is not just about women; it’s about letting all people lead fuller lives“

Jane Fonda, actress, political activist, environmentalist, and former fashion model, Photo: (c) Georges Biard, License Link here

„I have frequently been questioned, especially by women, of how I could reconcile family life with a scientific career. Well, it has not been easy.“

Marie Curie, physicist and chemist, first and only woman to win the Nobel Prize twice, Photo: (c)Fotograv. – Generalstabens Litografiska Anstalt Stockholm, Source Link