The Global Task Force on Building Women Leaders

The Global Task Force on Building Women Leaders was created to produce a case-based cross-cultural, cross-sectoral and cross-continental study on the vitally important subject of discovering the most effective means of fostering women leaders in the 21st century. The results of the study will be used to assist governments, communities, and organizations of all types to address this question in a pragmatic and concrete way. To this end, the Task Force draws on the international resources of the Task Force Advisory Board, Sector Champions, Advisors, and other partner organizations of the Task Force. The Global Task Force on Building Women Leaders grew out of The World Economic Forum Global Leaders for Tomorrow Task Force on Building Women Leaders which was launched at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The premises which led to the launch of this Task Force are threefold:

  1. There is a widely recognized need to strengthen leadership roles for women in government, and in non-governmental and corporate organizations around the world. There is a pressing desire to address this need in a comprehensive and concrete manner. ??
  2. Valuable lessons can be learned about the factors that contribute to identifying and developing human talent from studying exceptional women who have risen to leadership positions in different cultures, sectors and continents. Working with organizations all over the world, and with the help of its extraordinary Advisory Board, Sector Champions, Advisors, the Task Force will have unique direct and individual access to women leaders from around the world whose experience will enrich and inform the Study. ??
  3. There is a need for organizations, industries and policy makers to have practical and applicable findings from which they may draw direct benefits. The Task Force’s conclusions and recommendations will be based on the experiences of participants from across cultures, sectors and continents. These recommendations (both universal and specific) will form a practical action plan to provide opportunities for the recruitment, retention and fostering of women leaders.

The Study

Using extensive databases from around the world, as well as its own tailored research, the Task Force is rigorously examining the factors that contribute to the development of women leaders in modern society – in business, politics, the public sector, the military, NGOs, the arts and civil society. There will be two sets of findings generated by the work of the Task Force:

  1. The Task Force will identify a set of UNIVERSAL factors that contribute to the development of women leaders independent of their cultural, geographic and professional backgrounds.??
  2. In addition to these universal factors, the Task Force will determine the SPECIFIC cultural, sectoral and geographical factors in the upbringing and adult lives of women who have become leaders in the contemporary world.

The Task Force will then build upon these two sets of findings to develop practical and concrete recommendations for best practice for organizations in the public and private sectors around the world to enable them to identify and develop potential women leaders.

Study Method

In order for the Study to be based on scientifically robust data and to make viable and innovative recommendations for revised best practice throughout the public and private sectors, the Task Force has adopted the following methodology:

  1. Women Leaders’ Survey
    A survey of recognized women leaders across cultures, sectors and continents will be conducted online. The survey will draw on the extraordinary pool of women who participate in the Task Force, as well as women submitted by the Task Force Sector Champions, Task Force Partners, and participating organizations, to develop a direct and comprehensive understanding of the skills, experience and environment necessary for women to become leaders in their fields. The emphasis will be on seeking input from women leaders from diverse cultures, sectors and geographic backgrounds who have risen to leadership in a full range of public and private sector organizations.
  2. In-depth Study
    The Task Force is convening a series of regional and sectoral focus groups to obtain more in-depth, qualitative information on the factors that contribute to the development of women leaders from the women leaders themselves and from those who have worked with them throughout their lives. Following on from this, the research team will also conduct in-depth, personal interviews with a number of participants to round out the research.
  3. Survey Analysis
    The results of Parts 1 and 2 will be analyzed and synthesized by a multi-disciplinary analytical team to ensure that the Task Force produces results giving due weight to the range of factors which contribute to the emergence of women leaders. The survey analysis will produce findings that distinguish universal from sector-specific factors that contribute to the development of women leaders.

Based on these findings, the Task Force will make recommendations that will enable organizations in the public and private sector to implement consistent policies that have a practical, powerful and lasting impact on the identification and development of women leaders across sectors, cultures and continents. These will include practical recommendations and improved tools for building capacity within organizations to enable women to succeed in rising to leadership positions. It will also create tools for parents and educators, as well as for women of all ages to educate themselves and apply these recommendations in their communities.

  1. Presentation & Dissemination
    The Study and its recommendations will be distributed to all participants of the Task Force. The Task Force will also convene a conference devoted to exploring the results and looking at their implementation for the benefit of the development of women leaders. The results and recommendations will also be publicized with the Task Force’s media partners and sponsors, on national, international and sector levels. The Task Force received its first media coverage in a front page story in the Wall Street Journal in May 2003.

Complementary Study

We will be running a complementary parallel survey of approximately 1,000 CEOs and senior figures from the public sector from around the world in order to ascertain what organizations in different sectors and cultures have gained from actively promoting women into positions of leadership. This parallel survey will also examine best practices that these organizations have put in place for developing and promoting women from all sectors, continents and cultures, as well as ways in which these can be applied universally. The results of this complementary study will be integrated into the results of the larger study and published alongside.??


The Global Task Force on Building Women Leaders is chaired by Lucy P. Marcus, CEO, Marcus Venture Consulting. The structure to support and monitor project implementation is:

International Advisory Board

Made up of leading global figures from the worlds of government, NGOs, business, science, academia and the arts, the role of the International Advisory Board is to act as a sounding board as well as a voice for publicizing the work of the Task Force.

Task Force

Members of the Task Force will be actively involved with developing and implementing the Study, obtaining sponsorship, establishing contact with organizations and individuals worldwide that will contribute to, or benefit from the Study, and providing general advice during implementation.

Task Force members include Laura Tyson of the London Business School; Karen Elliott House of Dow Jones; Melanne Verveer of Vital Voices; Carol Gilligan of NYU Law School; Henrietta Fore, Director of the US Mint; Alastair King of Galahad Capital; polling expert Philip Gould; and Lulu Wang of Tupelo Capital. Also, the Task Force has benefited from the diverse makeup of the World Economic Forum Global Leader for Tomorrow (GLT) program, ensuring a balanced task force, with people representing five continents and a wide range of sectors, from finance to manufacturing, to education and government.

Several members of the Task Force act as Sector Champions: e.g., Baroness Susan Greenfield of the Royal Institution (Science), Julia Neuberger of the Kings Fund (Health), Kathy Bloomgarten of Ruder Finn (Biotech/Pharmaceuticals), and Jane Lute, Assistant Secretary-General for Mission Support in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations of the UN (Military). Sector Champions are responsible for ensuring that the Task Force addresses each of the sectors thoroughly, from making sure that there is a strong representative sample from each sector to reviewing the sector recommendations to ensure the results are robust, and to communicate the results of the Study within their sectors.

The members of the Task Force have a hands-on role in all aspects of the Task Force to ensure the consistency of the results and the soundness of the recommendations of the Task Force.


The Center for Diversity in Global Management of the IE Business School, based in Madrid, Spain, is cooperating with the Task Force in developing and conducting the survey and analyzing the raw data. The Task Force is being advised by a professional polling organization and other partners. The Task Force has also received generous support from the UK-based Westminster Foundation for Democracy.


At the conclusion of the Study, an international conference will be held to present and discuss the findings in greater depth. All Task Force and International Advisory Board members will be invited, along with the survey participants and representatives of sponsoring organizations and partners.

For more information, please contact Lucy P. Marcus, Chair, The Global Task Force on Building Women Leaders.