Business for Gender Equality | Susan McDade
21 Nov 2016
The 2030 Agenda gives us a road map to build the world we want, leaving no one behind. Gender equality is crucial to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as a fundamental human right driving progress for all the other goals. Empowering women and girls has a multiplier effect and that contributes to promoting economic growth and development around the world.
In partnership with the private sector and governments, we must work together to close gender gaps and eliminate structural barriers that impede women’s empowerment.
There have already been some extraordinary advances. However, we still have a long way to go. Despite the increasing number of women engaging in paid work, on average, they earn 24 percent less than men. Women are also less likely to have access to decent work, property and formal credit.
Labour force participation is also lower for women than for men. In 2015, 72 percent of working-age (15 and older) men were employed, compared with only 47 percent of women. Globally, women hold only 22 percent of senior leadership positions, and 32 percent of businesses have no female senior managers.
The situation in Latin America and the Caribbean is not far from this reality. Women do 75 percent of the unpaid domestic work. Five of every 10 women are out of the labour market, and 54 percent work in informal environments, with fragile incomes and little social protection. Furthermore, among 72 large companies in the region, three have a woman as CEO or president; that’s just 4.2 percent.
In this context, the private sector has a fundamental role to play in eliminating gender inequalities and fostering sustainable development. By implementing gender equality standards within their own companies, the private sector can ensure equal opportunities for women, create inclusive work environments and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals focused on gender equality (Goal 5), decent work and economic growth (Goal 8), and reduced inequalities (Goal 10).
Corporations reap numerous benefits from promoting gender equality in the work place. Companies committed to women’s active participation are seen as socially responsible, achieve greater efficiency and better personnel performance, have more committed employees, and improve hiring and their public image. In fact, many companies also become more profitable.
Businesses can make a difference and many have implemented initiatives aimed at creating equitable work environments and increasing women’s access to decent work. These are aimed at eliminating pay differences between women and men; increasing women’s roles in decision-making in mid- and upper-level management; developing and implementing policies that improve the work-life balance; promoting women’s participation in traditionally male-dominated industries; and eradicating sexual harassment in the work place.
To help businesses achieve these objectives, UNDP has established Gender Equality Seal Certification programmes, implemented by national governments since 2009 with the support of UNDP. These programmes work with public and private enterprises to address and resolve gender disparities in the workplace and establish environments where women’s contributions are equally valued.
Initially implemented in Latin America, Gender Equality Seals are expanding worldwide, and institutions that receive them are recognized for attaining specific standards to advance gender equality on the job. Over 400 companies are already certified in 12 countries, including Uruguay, Cuba, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Panama.
Benefits of certification and best practices of companies to reduce gender gaps are under discussion at the Third Global Forum on Gender Equality, organized by the government of Panama and UNDP. Business leaders, governments, academia and civil society will share success stories and innovative practices to attain gender equality in the work environment.
Advancing women’s equal participation in the workforce benefits families, communities and society in general. Achieving gender equality and women’s economic empowerment requires the commitment of everyone at every level. By strengthening policies and private sector engagement, we can put women and girls at the centre of development and build a more egalitarian world, without anyone being left behind.