Home The gender gap in humanitarian leadership

The lack of women in leadership has impacts across sectors and countries. It inhibits productivity and performance of work places and has individual and national health, education, political and socioeconomic impacts.

In the humanitarian sector women still have limited access to positions of leadership. This paper explores the existing evidence in relation to women in humanitarian leadership. It asks how much of a gender gap exists in leadership in the humanitarian world, as well as why the gap exists and the existing and potential implications.

In the United Nations system, women comprise 42.8 per cent of all employees, with a much greater concentration of women at the entry-level, and as of January 2016, only 9 of the 29 UN Humanitarian Coordinators are women (31 per cent).

Women in Humanitarian Leadership

Beyond exploring the gender gap as a phenomenon, and analysing its potential impact on the humanitarian sector, this paper also identifies gaps in the evidence base and suggests areas for future research. These future research areas may provide insights into how we can overcome barriers to getting more women in leadership positions and how we can improve the effectiveness of humanitarian action.

Academic contributors


Latest updates

  • Career Development

    New Scholarships for Women in Humanitarian Action

    The Centre for Humanitarian Leadership is proud to launch the Women in Humanitarian Action Scholarship, with generous support from the IKEA Foundation.

    Read more