Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he would personally like to see a woman lead the United Nations for the first time since it was established more than 70 years ago.
As he nears the end of his second five-year term on Dec. 31, Ban said that "it's high time now" for a female secretary-general after eight men at the helm of the world organisation.
There are currently 11 candidates vying to succeed Ban — six men and five women.
However, he stressed that the decision is not up to him — it's up to the 15-member Security Council which must recommend a candidate to the 193-member General Assembly for its approval.
The Security Council has held two informal polls in which 12 candidates participated, and in each, the highest-ranked woman was in third place, a disappointment to many. Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, a former U.N. refugee chief, topped both polls.
In the first "straw" poll Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, who heads the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, came in third but in the second she dropped to fifth. In the second poll Argentina's Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, who was Ban's former chief of staff, moved up to third. Former Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic, who placed last in the first poll, dropped out of the race.
The three other women candidates are New Zealand's former prime minister Helen Clark, who heads the U.N. Development Program; Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica, the U.N. official who played a key role in shaping last December's historic agreement to fight climate change; and former Moldovan Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman,
The Security Council has scheduled another "straw" poll on Aug. 29 and at least one, and possibly two, are expected to be held in September.