Today, on International Women’s Day, I am a week past the mid-point of my one-year mandate as Global President of AIESEC.
In just six months, I have had the opportunity to travel the world – from the United Nations General Assembly to a university classroom in Fiji – to represent over 80,000 youth annually who either go abroad for cross-cultural exchanges through AIESEC or who facilitate these exchanges as members of the organization.
In AIESEC, we give young people the chance to see the world, because if you can see it, then you can start to understand it, and if you understand it, then you can start to change it.
In many ways, the diversity we bring together inside the organization and the cross-cultural interactions we facilitate outside of the organization are a small glimpse of a perfect world, where each person can experience our organizational vision of “peace and fulfillment of humankind’s potential.”
In 2015, the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals united the entire world behind a set of goals intended to be achieved by 2030. That same year, AIESEC made a commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals. So, when we speak about changing the world, one clear, common language the world shares today are the targets set by the SDGs, including a gender-equal world.
SDG 5, Target 5.5 | Ensure Full Participation in Leadership and Decision-Making: Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership and all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life.
Every time I stand to represent young people – on panels, giving keynotes, and attending events – I represent more than just my age, I represent my gender.
In AIESEC, our 40,000 members are distributed across approximately 1,500 local chapters in over 110 countries and territories. Across the world, 59% of our members are women and 52% of the Local Chapter Presidents are women.
“AIESEC is a global, independent, non-political, not-for-profit youth-run organization. AIESEC does not discriminate on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, creed, or religion, nor on the basis of national, ethnic, or social origin.” – The AIESEC Way.
Yet, I am only the seventh woman to serve as Global President of AIESEC. Seventh…in 72 years. In the 72 years of AIESEC, we have had seven women serve as Global President. Just one month ago, my successor, the next Global President of AIESEC, was elected. Eva Dutary will follow me as the eight female Global President of AIESEC. This is the first time in the history of AIESEC that two women have served consecutive terms in this role.
Too many organizations, and industries, are doing things right at the start (like AIESEC with the representation of women in our Local Chapters) but too many times this doesn’t reach the highest levels of representation (like AIESEC with the representation of women in our Global Office).
As part of their Girls Get Equal campaign, Plan International, a global partner of AIESEC, recently launched their Rewrite Her Story report. In the report, an analysis of 56 top-grossing films in 2018 across 20 countries discovered that the portrayal of male leaders as the norm (“overall 42% of male, compared to 27% of female characters, are shown on screen as leaders”) perpetuates stereotypes that limit the potential of girls and women everywhere.
Leadership has no gender. In AIESEC, we can prove it, but breaking stereotypes takes more than just speaking up, it takes action.
Will you join us?
Alexandra Robinson is the Global President of AIESEC, a global, youth-led organization focused on developing leadership in young people through the facilitation of cross-cultural internships and volunteer experiences. AIESEC is present in over 120 countries and territories, annually facilitating over 40,000 cross-cultural exchanges with a membership of over 40,000 young people.
To learn more about AIESEC, go to aiesec.org. If you are a young person, let your voice be heard by taking the YouthSpeak Survey.28