UNESCO and Women on Boards


A group of executive women from Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom visited UNESCO Headquarters on Monday, 29 April, to hold a brainstorming session with the Director for Gender Equality on how to improve the representation of women on corporate boards and to explore possibilities of a joint initiative to address this issue.

Building on UNESCO’s work to improve the representation of women in senior decision-making positions in UNESCO domains as well as their participation, at the highest levels, in politics and the private sector (for example, please see UNESCO’s work with Koc University  to improve women’s representation in the private sector), the group reviewed  data on the current situation of gender balance on corporate boards in their respective countries and the current legislative and policy frameworks that aim to address this issue. The group agreed to continue reflections on the way forward and to develop an initiative that would have an impact.

Members of the group included: Maria Garcia Nielsen (former CEO of Office Depot in Spain); Rosie Bichard (Lofoten Asset Management); Valerie Robert (Chief Human Resource Officer, Nestle Skin Health); Eduarda Luna Pais (Managing Partner of ELPing Organizational Fitness); Marie O’Connor (former Audit partner at PwC, Chair of the Governing Authority at University College Dublin); Maria Teresa Marques (former Chair and CEO of LUSA, Portuguese News Agency); Eva Ivars Buigues (Global Digital Transformation Director of the Alain Afflelou Group); Emanuela Palazzani (founder and CEO of  Atman Advisory); Ana Barros (former Managing Director of Barclays Portugal).

These prominent women executives met when they all attended Harvard Business School’s Women on Boards (HBS-WOB) Executive Education programme in 2016 and 2017. Since then, they have been collaborating to launch a movement to improve women’s representation on corporate boards through an association, WomenExecs on Boards (www.womenexecsonboards.com), established by the graduates of the same programme that comprises nearly 100 members from 15 countries.

UNESCO’s Director for Gender Equality, Saniye Gülser Corat, attended the inaugural session of the HBS-WOB programme in November-December 2016.