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Update on gender equality at the WTO

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The appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Director General of the World Trade Organization has been greeted on all sides, and rightly so. In groups dedicated to trade and gender on social networks, comments on the appointment of this first woman at the head of the WTO have been “finally!” “Wooh! historical ”accompanied by emojis, applause, thumbs up and smileys. Monumental challenges await Dr. Ngozi in her role as head of the organization. One of the tasks ahead is the integration of the gender dimension into the practices and policies of the WTO.

A survey of gender balance in the work of the WTO paints a sad picture: since 2002, the chairs of the trade negotiations committee have all been men, as have the chairs of the negotiations on most key issues (agriculture, market access, dispute settlement, trade facilitation…). Women are still under-represented in leadership positions in the organization. The symbol of the appointment of a woman as head of the WTO is important in demonstrating that the glass ceiling can be broken in this traditionally male dominated organization.

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