International Women's Day 2021:

Women leading the way towards gender equality within UNOV/UNODC


Bonnie Adkins

Chief, Security and Safety Service, UNOV

Quote of Bonnie Adkins "“It’s important to show that
         diversity of all kinds, including gender, brings a wealth of experiences and different perspectives that can contribute to
         solving the difficult problems of today”


Vienna, 8 March 2021 - This International Women’s Day (IWD), UNOV/UNODC is celebrating the leadership shown by women across the organisations. Through a series of interviews, inspirational women from Field Offices and HQ are celebrated for their efforts towards advancing gender equality commitments and promoting these aspects across the offices’ mandated areas of work. In this interview we are speaking to Bonnie Adkins, the Chief of Security and Safety Service at United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV). She has made great strides within the organisation to increase female representation within the Security Service and continues to actively encourage women to join a traditionally male dominated sector. Read all about her motivations, her achievements and how she will be commemorating IWD 2021.

UNOV/ UNODC Gender Team: What was the “a-ha” moment when you realized there was a practical reason for promoting gender equality? How does that shine through in your leadership?

Bonnie Adkins: Unfortunately, I have been around so long that I have had several “aha” moments. My first experience was in my career as an United States Federal Law Enforcement Special Agent for the Department of Defense in the late 1980s.  Fortunately, my agency worked very hard towards gender and racial diversity because it was absolutely critical in our work.  There was never an operation or investigation that didn’t require at least one female agent for searches, interviews, collection of evidence and at times more females were needed than available.  This was the case especially in war zones, for example when I served in Iraq in 2004.  My first boss was a female Special Agent and I learned from the start of my career that diversity was critical for a team, especially in terms of gender.  Half of the population is female and in security it’s critical to be able to effectively serve everyone. 

My second “a-ha” moment was when I joined the UN in 2006 and found out that I was the first female Chief of Security for Department of Safety & Security (DSS).  That was a huge surprise to me and made me realize how far we still needed to go in the UN. And more recently, although we have been making progress, if you look at the numbers in security, we still have significant progress to make.  So, I believe we still have much more to do. 

When I worked in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) from 2006 to 2018, I hired over 150 Security Officers who have since been employed in other UN organizations from local organizations such as the International Criminal Court, Organisation for the Prohibition of Criminal Weapons and Special Tribunal for Lebanon and over 33 officers have been recruited into Department of Peace Keeping Operations.  Our sister SSS organizations have recruited 48 ICTY Officers who now proudly serve the DSS uniform in New York, Vienna and Geneva. Approximately 37 of these recruited UN Security Officers have been female who were selected and trained by ICTY and now serve to strengthen the gender parity within DSS. 

Since I have arrived in Vienna, we have hired 12 female officers and we have promoted more women to management and special teams such as a Fire Captain, Close Protection and Emergency Response Officers and line managers.  I am also now providing more mentoring and trying to give back what experience I may have to offer. 

UNOV/UNODC Gender Team: How would you encourage other colleagues to lead the way and be actively involved in promoting gender equality? 

Bonnie Adkins: I realize now, it’s important to not only explain but to show why gender and diversity is so important, especially in security. It’s important to show our male colleagues that diversity of all kinds, including gender, brings a wealth of experiences and different perspectives that can contribute to solving the difficult problems of today. I might not solve a problem the same way as my male counterparts because as a woman I may approach the same problem with a different solution.  That’s a good thing and should be fostered and encouraged.   

UNOV/UNODC Gender Team: How do you commemorate International Women´s Day, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic?  

Bonnie Adkins: I have been fortunate since arriving in Vienna to work with many female colleagues, especially with the UNOV Division of Management team and the Vienna Based Organisations Infrastructure Committee and have found it to be one of the most positive experiences in my career so far.  Maybe I’ll set up a group zoom call with all of them to let them know how much I appreciate working with them and how much they contribute everyday to the UN, to their families and community. 

Maim Image for the IWD campaign of UN Women, figures of
         women holding a flag that says "Women in Leadership"

(c) UN Women

Read more interviews here and find out more about the other inspirational women

Marked annually on March 8th, International Women's Day celebrates women's achievements and raises awareness about women's equality. UN Women announced this year`s theme as, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” The theme celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also aligned with the priority theme of the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, “Women's full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls” and the flagship Generation Equality campaign.

The hashtags for social media will be #IWD2021 and #InternationalWomensDay and #UNODC Gender.