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GWLP Overview

From 2017-2020, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Global Women’s Leadership Project (GWLP) has provided research for UNESCO and UN Women in support of their work on women, peace, and justice and women’s human rights.

Women’s Leadership in the Global Economy

THE GENDER AND BUSINESS INDEX PRESENTED to LUBNA OLAYAN- the Middle East’s leading businesswoman.   

“A New Opportunity for Women in the Global Economy: The Gender and Business Index authored by Associate Dean Rangita de Silva de Alwis with contributions from The Women, Law & Leadership seminar was presented  to Lubna Olayan, the Middle East’s leading businesswoman. Law School students Michael Machado L’20, Sarah Heberlig L’21, Claire Samuelson L’21, Farah Chalisa L’20, Kunal Kanodia L’20, Emi Mitani Ed., 20, and Fumnanya Ekhator L’20 contributed to data collection. 

Read the full report here.

Associate Dean Rangita de Silva de Alwis and the class on Women, Law and Leadership engaged in a fireside chat with Dina Powell, Partner at Goldman Sachs and Pioneer of 10,000 Women. A roundtable with Silda Spitzer focused on women in entrepreneurship and private equity. Read student Lindsay Holcomb’s reflections on the project. 



Distinguished Leaders

Distinguished Advisors to the Director and the Project

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

United Nations Under-Secretary-General & Executive Director of UN Women  
Irina Bokova

Irina Bokova

Former Director-General of UNESCO  
Lubna Olayan

Lubna Olayan

Chairwoman of the Board, Saudi British Bank & Chairwoman, Alawwal Bank  

Founding Director

Rangita de Silva de Alwis , Associate Dean of International Affairs and Advisor, UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund


  • Hina Jilani, Member of the Elders
  • Radhika Coomaraswamy, Former Under Secretary General and UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict
  • Navi Pillay, Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Justice Sisi Khampepe, Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa 
  • Gulser Corat, Head of Gender, UNESCO

Program Coordinator

Kerri Kearney, Program Coordinator, International Affairs


2015-2019 Global Women Leaders Forum 

From 2015-2019, the Law School hosted leading women trailblazers from around the world creating a platform to amplify women’s leadership as an urgent cause of the 21st century.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, 67th United States Secretary of State

Featured Global Women Leaders: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Mary Robinson, Navi Pillay,... Featured Global Women Leaders: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Mary Robinson, Navi Pillay, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Irina Bokova, Zainab Hawa Bangura, Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Ambassador Moushira Khattab, Radhika Coomaraswamy, Asma Jahangir, Hina Jilani, Indira Jaising, MK Tzipi Livni, Penny Wong, Lubna Olayan, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Making Laws, Breaking Silence: Case Studies From the Field

Making Laws, Breaking Silence: Case Studies from the Field grows out of a high-level roundtable convened by the Law School, UN Women, UNESCO, UN SDG Fund, and IDLO in March 2017. The convening brought together over 30 legislators, judges, and policy experts from more than 15 countries to examine new developments and challenges in gender equality lawmaking under Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals. The following case studies and essays expand on those deliberations and interactions and highlight some tensions in evolving law reform efforts around the world. Closing the enforcement gap in gender equality laws is often called the “unfinished business of the 21st century.” These reflections offer fresh insights and policy guidelines for UN agencies, multilaterals, government entities and civil society organizations charged with gender-based law reform.


Family Law Project (2016-2018)

Working with Associate Dean Rangita de Silva de Alwis, Distinguished Adviser to the Executive Director of UN Women, Law School students collected and curated a compendium of family laws around the world, identified gaps in the data collection, and develop a mapping of the gender gaps in family laws. This data was last updated in December 2018.

The Road to Peace Report

Penn Carey Law will partner with the SDG Fund on research, analysis and the editorial process of the SDG Fund Report addressing how businesses can contribute to peace and why SDG 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions) is important for the Private Sector.

Accelerating Women’s Economic Participation (2017-2018)

Law School Student Fellows at Penn will provide research support to the United States Department of Commerce and USAID on their global programs on women’s economic empowerment.

World Bank’s Gender and Identification for Development Initiative (January 14–May 1, 2019)

The World Bank Group’s Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative, in conjunction with the Gates Foundation, estimates that globally one billion people are unable to prove their identity. The majority of the one billion live in low-income countries (LICs), particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Women and the poor are less likely to have an ID than other population groups. The ID4D-Findex survey found that 45% of women in LICs do not have an ID (vs. 30% of men), and 45% of the poorest 20% of the population (vs. 28% of the richest 20%) lack proof of identity.


Global Women Leaders Video Series (2016-2019)

This video series presents conversations with women who are dealing with critical cutting edge law and policy issues.

About the Series

“Women Leaders in Law & Policy on the Global Stage” is a video series moderated by Rangita de silva de Alwis that presents conversations with women who, as experts in law and policy, are dealing with the critical, cutting-edge issues of our time. These situations — armed conflict, forced migration, sustainable development, climate change, and the human rights of children and the disabled — are where the voices of women are most in jeopardy of being silenced.

The women featured in this series have occupied myriad roles on the international stage over the course of their careers—legislator, judge, academic, government minister, political activist, and pragmatic thinker with non-governmental organizations. They have been among the few female leaders and change makers who have occupied seats at the tables where matters of import to women are discussed and decided. Their conversations with us confirm that women’s leadership of the kind they exemplify has never been more important than it is at the present moment for the achievement of equality, development and peace in the world.

Global Women Leaders Video series playlist

View playlist on youtube


Global Leaders Forum (2016-2019)

Penn Carey Law is committed to providing a forum for today’s Global Decision Makers. These global thought leaders have shaped important laws, policies, and institutions around the world.

Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson, Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Former President of Ireland

Robinson was recently named UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoys on El Niño and Climate.  She serves as the Chairman of the Institute for Human Rights and Business; President of the Mary Robinson Foundation–Climate Justice.

President Alain Berset

President Alain Berset, President of Switzerland 

Alain Berset was elected by the United Federal Assembly as president of the Swiss Confederation for 2018 and serves as the head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs.

Roza Otunbayeva

Roza Otunbayeva

Roza Otunbayeva, Former President on Kyrgyzstan; Member of the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation

Otunbayeva was the first leader in the region to leave office voluntarily and, as such, became part of the republic’s first peaceful transfer of power. She continues to lead Kyrgyzstan’s long journey toward peace and reconciliation by promoting democratic governance.

Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon

Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon, Former President of Mexico

Since the ending of his term as president in 2000, Zedillo has been a leading voice on globalization, especially its impact on relations between developed and developing nations.   While President, Zedillo led an economic recovery, and instituted reforms designed to end political corruption and create freer elections.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice of the United States of America

Justice Ginsburg is the second woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States, where she has served for 25 years as a powerful advocate for gender equality including the historic Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire dissent and the majority United States v. Virginia rulings.

Navi Pillay

Navi Pillay, Former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

In her native South Africa, Ms. Pillay contributed to the inclusion of the equality clause in the country’s Constitution that prohibits discrimination on grounds of race, gender, religion and sexual orientation. Her career has focused on children, detainees, victims of torture and of domestic violence, and a range of economic, social and cultural rights.

Zainab Hawa Bangura

Zainab Hawa Bangura, UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict

Ms. Bangura has over 20 years of policy, diplomatic and practical experience in the field of governance, conflict resolution and reconciliation in Africa. Ms. Bangura has been instrumental in developing national programs on affordable health, advocating for the elimination of genital mutilation, and managing her country’s Peace Building Commission.

Irina Bokova

Irina Bokova, Former Director-General of UNESCO

As Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova is actively engaged in international efforts to advance gender equality, quality education for all, and combat terrorist financing by preventing the illicit traffic of cultural goods. Bokova was the first Eastern European to lead UNESCO.

Asma Jahangir

Asma Jahangir, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights to Iran; Former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief; Former UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions

Jahangir is known globally as Pakistan’s leading human rights lawyer.  Jahangir continues to face death threats for her work on behalf of women, children, and minorities, and her efforts to reform the pernicious Hudood Ordinance (crimes of honor and blasphemy in Pakistan).

Indira Jaising

Indira Jaising

Indira Jaising, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India & Founder, Lawyers Collective

Indira Jaising helped to draft India’s first domestic violence law and aided in achieving equal property rights for Syrian Christian women in India. Jaising’s dedication to battling injustice earned her the award of one of Forbes’ 50 Greatest Leaders in 2018.

Hina Jilani

Hina Jilani

Hina Jilani, Former UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights Defenders

Jilani is a pioneering lawyer and pro-democracy campaigner, a leading activist in Pakistan’s women’s movement and international champion of human rights. She founded Pakistan’s first all-women law firm; first legal aid centre; and national Human Rights Commission.

Portrait of PR of Kenya (H.E. Mr. Macharia Kamau)

Macharia Kamau

Macharia Kamau, Kenyan Ambassador to the United Nations and Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on El Niño and Climate

 Ambassador Kamau was one of the primary architects of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and co-facilitator of the 2030 Development Agenda.  He has vast experience at the United Nations where he served for over twenty-five years, primarily in senior management positions at the UN Development Programme, UNICEF, and UNTAG.

Moushira Khattab

Moushira Khattab, former Minister of Family & Population of Egypt, Former Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, and Former Ambassador

Khattab is a world-renowned human rights activist advocating the rights of children and women and the former Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child based at the UN Headquarters in Geneva.

Maria Mejía Vélez

Maria Emma Mejía Vélez, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations in New York

Ambassador Mejía has held high government positions for over two decades, dedicating most of her career to peace and Latin-American foreign affairs issues. She played a vital role in negotiating the peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC opposition to end the fifty-year conflict. 

Phumizile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Phumizile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is the Executive Director of UN Women where she is dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women and launched the “He For She” project, a solidarity campaign for the advancement of gender equality.  She was the first woman to hold the position of Deputy President of South Africa (2005-2008). 

Crystal Nix-Hines

Crystal Nix-Hines

Crystal Nix-Hines, United States Ambassador to UNESCO in Paris (2014-2017)

As US Ambassador to UNESCO, Nix-Hines championed UNESCO’s initiatives to end illiteracy among women and girls, expand educational access through technology and advocated for the restoration of the US’s full financial and diplomatic partnership with UNESCO to advance the nation’s strategic and commercial interests.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Finance of Nigeria and Coordinating Minister for the Economy

A world-renowned economist recently named one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders by Fortune.  Okonjo-Iweala has also served as Managing Director of the World Bank.

Miguel de Serpa Soares

Miguel de Serpa Soares, UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs

UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs

Serpa Soares is the United Nations’ top legal counsel and legal advisor to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.  He previously served as Director General of Portugal’s Department of Legal Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as a Member of the Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration. 


Donald B. Verrilli

Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., 46th Solicitor General of the United States & Partner, Munger, Tolles and Olson

Donald B. Verrilli’s tenure as the 46th Solicitor General of the United States was marked by high-profile Supreme Court cases that define President Obama’s legacy on issues of health care law, voting rights, affirmative action, same-sex marriage, and immigration.

Melanie Verveer

Melanne Verveer, Former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues 

Current Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security at Georgetown University. Verveer previously served as Executive Director of People for the American Way, where she was involved in the passage of important civil rights legislation.

Penny Wong

Penny Wong, Leader of the Opposition in the Australian Senate

Wong is the first woman to hold both the role of Leader of the Government in the Australian Senate and, after the change of government in 2013, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. She is an advocate for women’s equality, LGBTI rights, and a multicultural Australia.


Mapping Gender Equality

A 50-State Mapping of Paid Family Leave and Sexual Harassment Laws.

Working with Associate Dean Rangita de Silva de Alwis, Penn Carey Law students collected and curated relevant protections across the United States. This study was last updated in June 2020. A link to the database can be found here. The full report can be found here.


The laws and policies tracked included:

  • Details (if applicable) of paid family leave law
  • Days of paid family leave
  • Sexual harassment laws
  • Protect against sexual orientation/ gender identity/ gender expression discrimination?
  • Number of employees for state law to apply
  • Who receives protections?
  • Training requirement?
  • Limiting forced arbitration?
  • Limiting non-disclosure agreements (NDA)?
  • Additional information such as pending legislation

Research notes:

  • Federal law provides sexual harassment protections to those employees working in an environment with a minimum of fifteen employees. Several state sexual harassment statutes cover employers with fewer than fifteen employers, but no state could require more than fifteen employees.
  • The study specifically accounted for paid family/parental leave. Pregnancy disability leave is a separate set of laws.
Student Researchers:

Cassandra Dula L’21 and Allie Gottlieb L’21