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Why the UN Secretary General Favors Quotas for Gender Representation

If you want to reach any level of gender parity you must take affirmative action. That’s what the Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres told The CEO Initiative conference hosted by Fortune and Time on Monday.

“I am very much a believer in quota systems,” Guterres said. “I would be very much in favor in quotas in the boardrooms of companies and in other aspects because this will not happen naturally. I was reading a very interesting article a few days ago speaking about the way to gender equality and it said, “the good news is that we’re moving in that direction, the bad news is that it will take 300 years.’ So we really need to introduce some mechanisms into the different systems to make it happen.”

Guterres has pledged to have complete gender parity for his appointees to the positions of Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General. Since taking office on January 1 this year, the former Portuguese prime minister says he has appointed 17 women and 15 men to the highest political levels of the United Nations.

The Secretary-General said he has long been an advocate of quotas: “I introduced quotas into my political party 30 years ago. I tried to do it in the parliament but we had a minority government and the whole opposition voted against it. We lost that battle but I think we need to have some affirmative action on this because in my experience decisions are better when you have an equilibrium between women and men.”