Strengthening the Business Case for Gender Equality, Nearly 400 CEOs Commit to Women’s Empowerment Principles

Date: 06 Mar 2012

UN Women Press Release
For immediate release

Media Contact:
Oisika Chakrabarti, oisika.chakrabarti@unwomen.org, +1 646 781-4522
Kristen Coco, cocok@un.org, +1 917 367-8566

United Nations, New York — Nearly 400 chief executives worldwide have publicly declared their commitment to implementing the Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs) over the last two years, as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet will highlight today at the 4th Annual Equality Means Business Event.

Joining nearly 200 business leaders and representatives from civil society, governments and the UN, they will mark the second anniversary of this initiative by UN Women and the UN Global Compact, which provides a roadmap for business to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. In reporting this surge in corporate support—which has more than doubled since last year—they will affirm the recognition by business that women's economic empowerment and equality are essential drivers for success, and expanding economies worldwide.

This year's event, titled “Gender Equality for Sustainable Business, focuses on the business practices being used to implement the Principles. During the event, a number of tools and resources are to be launched to support businesses as they start to apply the Principles, among them guidance on how to report progress on their implementation.

Stressing the vital link between women's economic empowerment and sustainable development in the context of this year's UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), the Secretary-General said: “The private sector contributions will be crucial. We cannot achieve sustainable development without buy-in from business—from leading global corporations to small- and medium-size enterprises, from investors to entrepreneurs. Nor can we achieve sustainability—at a corporate or a global level—without empowering the world's women.

“Amidst all the challenges and opportunities in our world today, one fact is unassailable: countries and companies with higher gender equality enjoy higher levels of growth and performance, said Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women. “And the growth is more inclusive, which benefits all of us.

Since their launch in 2010 with the support of the UN Secretary-General, the Women's Empowerment Principles have taken hold in Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, Serbia, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Iceland. Here, national stakeholder groups are developing distinctive approaches and programmes to implement the initiative. This has ranged from increasing the access of women and girls to science and technology education, to supporting women entrepreneurs and artisans after disasters, or aiding women survivors of acid attacks.

Georg Kell, Executive Director of the Global Compact, said: “Despite increased efforts, corporate sustainability and gender equality concerns often remain disconnected. More and more companies now recognize that business can maximize its contribution to sustainable development by prioritizing and integrating gender equality and women's empowerment as key components of corporate sustainability.

Ms. Güler Sabanci, Chairman and Managing Director of Sabanci Holding, said: “Sabanci Holding has always been ahead of its time when it came to gender, which encouraged me going forward. I have always felt an extra level of responsibility because of this, and have been an advocate of the advancement of women in all walks of life. This is why Sabanci has been at the forefront of the gender equality movement in Turkey. We have championed the cause not for our own sake, but for the sake of the whole country.

Commenting on the critical role that the Principles play in advancing gender equality, Joseph Keefe, Chief Executive Officer of PaxWorld Management LLC, added: “I am convinced that, should a critical mass of companies around the globe endorse and take proactive steps to implement the Women's Empowerment Principles, the cause of gender equality will be immeasurably advanced, and the timetable for achieving genuine progress will be greatly accelerated.

New tools and resources for advancing the Women's Empowerment Principles to be launched at this year's event include the following:

  • Developed in association with Ernst & Young, the WEPs Reporting Guidance aligned with each of the seven Principles will strengthen the ability of businesses to report progress on advancing women and gender equality.
  • A WEPs Champions Programme will recognize businesses ready to take their commitment to gender equality to the next level.
  • The Cracking the Ceiling, Raising the Floor campaign will focus business attention on increasing the participation of women in decision-making and corporate governance to at least 30 percent at all levels and across all business areas. The campaign highlights key initiatives and resources that make the business case for improving the rates of female representation on boards and at senior executive levels.
  • Together with the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), a Gender Working Group has been established to bring new emphasis on gender, diversity and inclusion to management education globally—thus transforming the leadership pipeline that is deemed essential to changing business culture.

About the Women's Empowerment Principles
The Women's Empowerment Principles - Equality Means Business is a joint initiative of UN Women and the UN Global Compact. The Principles outline seven steps for business on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. The Principles highlight that empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors and throughout all levels of economic activity is essential to build strong economies; establish more stable and just societies; achieve internationally agreed goals for development, sustainability, and human rights; improve quality of life for women, men, families and communities; and propel business' operations and goals. Learn more.

Complete Agenda: http://bit.ly/yHajq0

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