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Our Top 5 Women in International Development

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26th Feb 2020

What is International Development?

Development is the change and improvement of circumstances – so when referring to international development it means the change and improvement of circumstances on a global scale. There are obviously many aspects to international development but generally speaking, it is the positive growth of a country, place or subject matter. This could be anything from tackling poverty, fighting government corruption or promoting human rights.

It has never been so important to focus on all of these pressing issues and work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 - and females play a crucial role in this. So, we decided to research some of the top women leading the way in international development. Here are our top 5...

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Kristalina Georgieva

Beginning her career as an environmental economist for the World Bank in 1993, Kristalina Georgieva is a Bulgarian economist who has made influential changes across the world and throughout her career.

Georgieva’s career at the World Bank began to excel in 2010 when she worked on restoring the government in Haiti 2010, after the earthquake crisis. She organised the provision of shelter and health services which helped get services in Haiti back up and running. Due to this success, Georgieva became the Commissioner for the international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response. Here she effectively responded to crisis’ such as floods in Pakistan and the earthquake in Chile 2010, as well as working on solving the food crisis across the Sahel, in Africa.

Georgieva also tripled EU funding for the refugee crisis in Europe.

Georgieva became Vice President of the European Commission in 2014 until 2016. Here she has helped overcome gender inequality in senior management positions in the European Commission. With a target of a 50/50 ratio of male and female employees by 2020, Georgieva achieved this in October 2018 – way ahead of the target!!

Since 2017, Georgieva worked as the Chief Executive of the World Bank and had the opportunity to be Acting President of the World Bank Group at the beginning of 2019. She is now the current Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.

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Margaret Chan

Another top woman in this industry is Margaret Chan – a Chinese-Canadian physician who began her career in international development in 1994. Chan joined the Hong Kong government, becoming the director of health, where she handled epidemics such as the avian influenza outbreak (1997) and SARS outbreak (2003).

Chan’s work was recognised and in 2003, she became a Representative of the World Health Organisation, serving as Director-General from 2006-2017. During her time at the World Health Organisation, Chan helped to promote public health, particularly for African women, and she even set up new ways to prevent diseases from spreading. In 2014, Chan was placed the 30th most powerful woman in the world.

Post World Health Organisation, Chan now addresses the prevention of noncommunicable diseases and the most common causes of death for Task Force.  

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Sonia Warner

Sonia Warner is the Senior Governance Advisor for the Department for International Development and is currently working in Nigeria’s office; responsible for the UK government’s anti-corruption efforts in Nigeria. Warner is based in the British High Commission in Abuja, (Nigeria’s capital city) where she provides governance advice to industries including tax and public reform.

The Department for International Development are currently implementing the Anti-Corruption in Nigeria Programme which helps to support the government of Nigeria and civil service society organisations through a range of interventions. The intervention has an aim of changing the attitude and behaviour on the corruption of individuals.  

In her earlier career, Warner was a Programme coordinator who focused on Security and Justice in the British Embassy, Khartoum. She has also been involved in a discussion workshop in Abuja, Nigeria – ‘Capacity Building and Action Planning’, where multiple government agencies came together to discuss anti-corruption efforts. As well as working in Nigeria, Warner has also worked in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Sudan and South Sudan. 

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Helen Clark

Helen Clark, a politician from New Zealand was ranked 22nd in the most powerful women in 2016, making her stand out for her work in international development.

Clark was part of the labour party in New Zealand, and was elected to parliament in 1981, becoming the 2nd female PM in 1999 and the 5th longest serving PM in New Zealand (9 years). Here, Clark undertook roles such as the Minister of Housing, Minister of Health and Minister of Conservation. Whilst in office, Chan also achieved the signing of a free-trade agreement with China – being the first developed nation to do so!

After resigning as Prime Minister, Chan became the first female administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, leading the organisation from 2009-2017. During her time here she worked in Guinea, Sierra Leonne and Liberia, helping the prevention of Ebola and in Haiti working on the cholera outbreak.

Clark is now the Patron of The Helen Clark Foundation, which was set up in New Zealand and was launched in March 2019. The foundation focuses on issues related to environmentalism and drug policy.

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Christine Lagarde

Christine Lagarde is a French lawyer and politician who is currently the President of the European Central Bank since November 2019. 

Lagarde has taken on many influential roles in international development throughout her career. She began working for the French government, undertaking the role of Minister of Commerce (2005-2007), Minister of agriculture (2007) and Minister of the Economy, Finance and Industry (2007-2011).

Christine Lagarde was the first female chairman of law firm Baker & McKenzie in 1999, the first woman to become Finance Minister of a G8 economy and the first woman to be head of the IMF.