Breakthrough Barriers: Women in the Public Sphere


The Women in Public Service Project (WPSP) at the Wilson Center aims to have 50% of government leadership positions filled by women by 2050. The reality today is that we are at about 22% globally. 

In this vein, the WPSP and Women@theTable hosted an international summit to determine as a network what is working in increasing women’s participation; what are barriers to the realization of legislation, laws and commitments; and what commitments and actions women in office can take to realize gender parity in the public sector. The conversation also emphasized the importance of leveraging data and research for action. 

Women from 24 countries worked toward three overarching outcomes:

  • Building the platform and network of women in office; 
  • Determining how women in office can work together and use power effectively across sectors, governments and countries; and
  • Leveraging commitments and tools to turn solutions into action. 

The room was full of energy as we looked out on Mont Blanc and Lac du Geneve, fitting scenery for a goal of gender equality in government.

The full day of engagement included presentations of the latest research on where women are in government, how laws and legislation both promote and hinder women’s power, and how to advance women’s labor force participation.  Breakout groups and plenaries allowed the women executives, legislators and judges to work with their peers, discussing the research, realities and concrete actions to move forward toward gender parity.
The day ended with a public panel with experienced women leaders Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Hon. Hina Jilani and H.E. Dr. Joyce Banda. The panelists talked about the progress that has been made toward parity and how and where to keep pushing forward. The discussion focused not only on the tools to equip current and emerging leaders, but also substantive actions that can be taken to foster political will and build an evidence base to advocate for women’s leadership globally.

Through conversations spanning sectors and regions, summit participants developed actionable solutions to critical barriers to leadership and built a transnational network of women leaders at the forefront of the effort toward global gender parity.