Skip to main content
Taxation and Customs Union
News article6 October 20212 min read

Women in Customs: How gender balance can make customs more resilient, credible and representative

On 24 September, nearly 200 Heads and Deputy-Heads of national customs authorities and senior representatives from the private sector attended the first ever high-level international event for Women in Customs. 

The conference was hosted by the European Commission, under the auspices of the World Customs Organisation (WCO).

Banner of the Women in Customs conference

The online event provided participants with an opportunity to learn from one another, to network, to build relationships, to develop leadership skills and to exchange ideas with like-minded individuals. As European Commission Director Sabine Henzler highlighted in her keynote speech, fewer women customs officers means less first-hand experience of women’s needs and reality. This, in turn, makes life even more complicated for women engaging in trade, especially small-scale ones whose livelihoods directly depend on being able to navigate border procedures. Rendering customs environments more diverse increases trust and institutional legitimacy, helping customs authorities not only support, but reflect the populations they serve.

During panel discussions on the topics of “Core Values for Effective Leaders” and “Transforming Organizations through Equality and Inclusion,” speakers from South Africa, USA, Peru, Panama, China and Spain shared their views on the importance of implementing gender equality and inclusion. They agreed that changing the organisational culture is essential in creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces. The role of management was therefore deemed critical in closing gender gaps and encouraging women and underrepresented groups to take on leadership roles. 

“Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace encourages innovation, and improves both individual and organizational performance, since people with different backgrounds bring different perspectives and ideas to the table,” said the WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya. “It is a question of human rights, sustainable development and well-being,” he added.

The Women in Customs event closed in a positive note with Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni  calling for a more diverse and dynamic Customs Union: “Gender equality is not just a moral imperative or a matter of fairness for me. Gender equality is good for growth. Our economic analyses have time and time again revealed that adding women to the labour force boosts economic growth and leads to gains in both output and productivity. And forging greater gender parity not only benefits women, it benefits men, families and the society at large.”

The Women in Customs event was the first in a series of gatherings of the newly established WCO Network for Gender Equality and Diversity in Customs. Find out more about the WCO’s work on Gender Equality and Diversity here: World Customs Organization (


Publication date
6 October 2021