In his first comments so far over who should succeed him in the top job at the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon has said that his successor as the organisation's Secretary-General should be a woman.

Ban's second five-year term comes up at the end of the year, and he said given that eight men had led the UN since its inception after World War II, it was "high time" for a woman to take over.

Without naming anyone, he said there were "many distinguished, motivated women leaders who can really change this world, who can actively engage with the other leaders of the world.

"We have many distinguished and eminent women leaders in national governments or other organisations or even business communities, political communities, and cultural and every aspect of our life," Ban said in Novato, California.

"There's no reason why not in the United Nations," he added.

Five women are among the 11 candidates in the running for the role of the world's top diplomat.

Ban has no say in who takes over and so far it has been the most transparent process to elect the next leader, with the candidates going on hustings to lay out their visions for the organisation.

However the decision will be made in three secret ballots by the 15-member security council, which must agree on a candidate to present to the General Assembly.

The former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres has topped the two polls so far, with UNESCO head, Irina Bokova, the top female candidate with Susana Malcorra from Argentina, behind her.

The other three female candidates are New Zealand's former prime minister Helen Clark, Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica and the former Moldovan foreign minister, Natalia Gherman.

Long-time UN observer Jean Krasno who founded the Campaign To Elect a Woman UN Secretary-General told IBTimes UK in May that it would be important that a woman take up the mantle of the world's top diplomat. "It is not just about fairness or gender equity, it is also women around the world need a voice," she said.

The Security Council has scheduled another straw poll for 29 August and at least one, possibly two more, are expected to be held in September before a successor is named in October.