Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women. Now in her second term (to 2021), she was first sworn into office on 19 August 2013. She began her career as a leader in South Africa and an activist in the struggle against apartheid. She was part of the women’s movement that organized for women’s rights ensuring that they were enshrined in the new Constitution of a free South Africa. She became a member of Parliament and Deputy Minister in the Mandela government. Later she was appointed Minister of Minerals and Energy and fought against blood diamonds, and subsequently Deputy President, working on the fight against HIV/AIDS and coordinating efforts between the private sector, civil society and government to tackle poverty and education issues.
As the head of the UN entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, she is a global advocate and influencer, in 2018 being named the most influential person in gender policy around the world. She is a member of the G7’s Gender Advisory Council. Under her leadership, the groundbreaking High-level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment convened by the UN Secretary-General in 2015 highlighted key policy issues for concerted action including the over representation of women in the informal sector, unpaid care, and the harmful gender norms and stereotypes that constrain progress.
She has led the organization’s innovative work on disruption of society’s norms, for example with the HeForShe movement’s focus on male engagement in gender equality, or the UnStereotype Alliance’s initiative to use advertising as a force for good to drive positive change. Through coalition and movement building among global leaders in public and private sectors, and with civil society, she is driving the role of women in leadership, and ending discrimination and violence against women and girls.
She has a PhD on education and technology from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom.