Business leaders taking action on gender equality and women empowerment

The event was held to recognize and inspire business corporate leadership in advancing gender equality and empowerment of women, promote inclusive economic prosperity in realizing the 2030 Agenda.

Date: Tuesday, August 28, 2018

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP) event in Johannesburg. Photo UN Women/Puleng Charity Mkhatshwa

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP) event in Johannesburg. Photo UN Women/Puleng Charity Mkhatshwa

UN Women South Africa Multi Country Office is partnering with the Global Compact Network South Africa (GCNSA) and Commission for Gender Equality to advance the vital role of the private sector in promoting gender equality and empower women. As part of the South Africa national women’s month, over 65 participants from the private sector, government and the UN gathered for the  Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP) event, Business Leaders Taking Action on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment.

The event was held to recognize and inspire business corporate leadership in advancing gender equality and empowerment of women, promote inclusive economic prosperity in realizing the 2030 Agenda. 

Speaking at the event, UN Women Executive Director, Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka remarked: “Not only is advancing the lives of women and girls a moral obligation – it is also smart economics”

She continued, “with the right policies and practices in place, businesses have a tremendous opportunity to boost gender equality”

The event also raised awareness for companies to endorse and adopt the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), a set of seven-step guidelines for business on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. Jointly promulgated by UN Women and the UN Global Compact, there are currently more than 1,900 CEO signatories globally, with over 50 of these in South Africa.

Speakers emphasized the need to recognize and acknowledge positive visible leadership for gender equality.  Participants recommended the prioritization of enactment of new enforceable laws to address gender inequality in the workplace whereby punishable actions are instituted to ensure compliance.

Recommendations from the event included calls for all stakeholders, including the private sector, to be strategic partners for gender equality by:

  • Ensuring the Commission for Gender Equality monitors and reports progress by Business South Africa in implementing gender equality in the work place, specifically on pay gap between men and women employees; board representation; procurement preference for women by Johannesburg Stock Exchange listed companies.
  • Replicating good practices such as the example of the Iceland where paying women less than men was made illegal as of 1st January 2018 and the government monitors companies that are non-compliant.
  • Ensuring complete zero tolerance for sex for jobs/promotion and sexual harassment in the work place.
  • Advocating for non-negotiable compliance on gender equality in the work place
  • Ensuring women-owned businesses access more than 1% of procurement contributes close to 16% of the GDP of most countries including South Africa, but women-owned businesses only access 1%- this narrative needs to be changed.
  • Supporting the role of public (and private) procurement as it cannot be underscored. It presents a transformative opportunity to promote women’s economic empowerment and the potential to build sustainable enterprises and a robust economy that creates jobs.
  • Requesting the South African Presidency office to ensure monitoring of equal pay between men and women in the work place is prioritized.
  • Ensuring corporatesign up for the HeforShe campaign to bring more awareness on gender equality in the work place.

In closing the event, the Executive Director encouraged the private sector to partner with the UN to advance the agenda for women by “working together on strategic partnerships across sectors to turn commitments into actions that make a tangible difference in the lives of women and girls – in South Africa and around the world.”

Learn more about Women's Empowerment Principles at www.weprinciples.org