The OECD celebrates 60 years of success — and prepares for many more

Banner image: Silvana Koch-Mehrin, President & Founder, Women Political Leaders speaks at the 2019 OECD Forum's Reykjavik Index for Leadership: Do People Prefer Women or Men as Leaders? session. Photo : OECD / Maud Bernos

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This article is part of a series in which OECD experts and thought leaders — from around the world and all parts of society — address the COVID-19 crisis, discussing and developing solutions now and for the future. It aims to foster the fruitful exchange of expertise and perspectives across fields to help us rise to this critical challenge. Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the OECD.

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Where are the women in the corridors of power? What keeps them away? How can this change? Seeking answers and finding solutions to such questions is core to the work of OECD. In the 60 years since its inception, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has worked consistently to help shape policies that foster equality, opportunity, prosperity and well-being for all. These values are reflected in the priorities of Women Political Leaders, which collaborates with the OECD on issues of immediate concern to both organisations. This includes the challenge of ensuring equal participation by women in policy-making and economics, assuring that the work and experience of women political leaders are given due visibility at all major convenings, and ultimately safeguarding women parliamentarians from online harassment. Also, ensuring her voice is heard when designing policies for innovative and game-changing new technologies.

Find out more about the OECD's 60th anniversary

As the global network of women political leaders, Women Political Leaders also has the honour of partnering regularly with the OECD and participating in gatherings of members of parliament and representatives from the OECD countries. In harmony with WPL’s abiding goal of increasing the number and influence of women in political leadership positions, the OECD has a long history of boldly supporting policy recommendations and urging policymakers and stakeholders to pursue a reform agenda to advance women’s leadership, promoting the inclusion of women’s rights into national legislative frameworks. 

Outstanding examples of how the OECD has helped improve lives across the past 10 years include its forceful recommendations on gender quotas for decision-making positions, as well as its committed actions to end sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment in projects of development co-operation and humanitarian assistance.

The OECD’s roots trace back to the reconstruction of Europe following the Second World War, when the spirit of co-operation was embraced as essential to lasting peace. Over the past six decades, OECD initiatives have increasingly recognised the pivotal importance of women’s advancement and empowerment in the pursuit of the global good. 

The benefits of gender diversity in decision-making are well known, and WPL applauds the OECD for efforts to update expectations around leadership by opposing outdated patriarchal norms and enabling equal access for women. In this regard, affinities with WPL are again apparent. WPL’s Reykjavík Index for Leadership, now in its third year, measures popular and societal perceptions around suitability for leadership positions of both women and men, across more than 20 sectors.

Also on the Forum Network: Where are the women in cybersecurity leadership roles? by Tarah Wheeler, Harvard University Belfer Cyber Fellow & International Security Fellow, New America

While women’s leadership continues to be stigmatised and perceived as a nice-to-have, evidence clearly demonstrates that wherever women take part in vital decision-making, companies and communities and entire nations fare better. The OECD is well equipped to help change negative perceptions as we progress toward a more equitable and balanced post-pandemic future. 

As regards the COVID-19 pandemic, now exerting a predictably disproportionate burden on women and girls, WPL and the OECD have come together once again at virtual roundtables to identify and prioritise policy measures that can best facilitate a more inclusive recovery. Ensuring women’s equal participation in leadership will be key to building a better future. This tragic moment in human history can be seen as an opportunity to correct existing gaps and to recognise the strength and effectiveness of women’s leadership, both in fighting COVID-19 and in the coming reconstruction. 

On the auspicious occasion of the OECD’s 60th anniversary, Women Political Leaders would like to recall and to commend the OECD’s history of bold policy recommendations. WPL continues to support the OECD’s ongoing imperative of urging policy makers and stakeholders alike to pursue a strong agenda for reform — further advancing women’s leadership and ensuring that countries around the globe move ahead with due speed — to right all historic imbalances and to meet the accelerated pace of change demanded by the current global health crisis.

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Silvana Koch-Mehrin

Founder and President, Women Political Leaders

Silvana is the President and Founder of the Women Political Leaders (WPL), the worldwide network of female Politicians. WPL is an independent, non-partisan and not-for-profit foundation. Its mission is increase the number and influence of women in political leadership. Silvana is a former Vice-President of the European Parliament (2009-2011) and a former MEP (2004-2014). She served in the committees on budget, on trade and on gender equality. Before her time in politics she founded and ran a public affairs consultancy in Brussels, which later merged with a larger US firm. In addition to her work for WPL, Silvana acts as Senior Advisor to EY Ernst & Young, Senior Policy Advisor to gplus europe, and provides guidance on EU regulatory issues to a range of companies and governments. She is a regular speaker at institutions such as the UN, OECD, World Bank and other international fora. With her three kids and their Irish father she lives in Brussels, Belgium.

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