GWL Voices

To multiply their impact, a group of global women leaders first had to find a unique focus… Here’s how they did it.

How did a small, up-and-coming women’s organization capture the attention of The Guardian, Reuters, El País, UN Women, and António Guterres?

Five years after its founding, GWL Voices, an organization of +70 global women leaders advocating for gender equality in the multilateral system, wanted to boost its communications to increase impact. The question was: How? Where to start? 

We suggested that they begin by taking a step back. Before thinking of social media campaigns, data visualizations or OpEds, we urged GWL to consider more fundamental questions: What are you uniquely positioned to talk about with authority? Where precisely can you hope to make a difference? What about your current approach is keeping you from achieving that effect? What needs to change?

Through a combination of diagnostic research and workshops with the management of GWL Voices, we began to collectively answer these questions.

It became clear that the organization was uniquely positioned to lead the conversation about gender equality in the multilateral system. Its members have led and held key positions in some of the world’s most important international organizations. And, although the global debate around gender equality has become crowded and noisy, this particular niche did not seem to be taken. It was their void to fill. 

At this point we were ready to propose a communications strategy and develop evidence, communication products and tactics that would enable GWL to “claim” this space and use it as a catalyst for change. It is a collaboration that continues until today.

At the heart of our proposed strategy was the creation of a flagship data product that would position GWL as the authority on gender and multilateralism, generating recurrent media attention and giving their key audiences even more reasons to pay attention. This recommendation was based on the fact that during our research we were unable to find a comprehensive and up-to-date source of information on women’s leadership in the multilateral system. 

Next

We began conducting research and developing a “teaser” or preview report that was published in March 2023 during the 67th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), in New York City. The report offered the first-ever visualization of the scarcity of women in leadership in the most important international organizations, not just today, but since the World War II era when many of these organizations were founded. The impact was immediate: by capturing the phenomenon of gender exclusion and illustrating it in a novel way, GWL provoked widespread media coverage, a spike in social media metrics, and–most importantly–attention from the Secretary General of the United Nations and numerous heads of state.

Based on the success of the preview report, we developed a much more extensive version, Women in Multilateralism 2024. This study provided the first ever analysis of the gender composition of the heads, governing bodies, and senior management teams of 54 of the world’s most important multilateral organizations. The report was launched in Madrid in January 2024, at an event opened by Spain’s President, Pedro Sánchez, and Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton. It drew global attention, with more than 300 articles published in Spanish and international media. 

In addition to a traditional publication, we urged GWL to release the report in the scrolly-telling format on its webpage, enabling users to quickly engage with GWL’s data. And we also created an interactive graph that allows users to test their knowledge of the evolution of women’s leadership in the multilateral system over time. 

The impact of this report has also enabled GWL to introduce new tactics and avenues for action in its campaign to increase the number of women in leadership. We worked closely with GWL Voices to develop advocacy campaigns that could deliver change in the next three years. One such campaign, #Rotation4Equality, is calling for the rotation of the UN General Assembly Presidency between men and women–in a direct reference to a graph in the report that showed the near-total absence of women in that role. Another one is the #MadameSecretary campaign, which aims to elect a woman to the top job at the UN for the first time. 

None of this would have happened had GWL not approached us with a genuine willingness to experiment and chart a distinctive path. It has been thrilling to collaborate in a process that is bringing new attention and commitment to the cause of gender equality. 

 

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