UNIFEM, UNGC call on business community to implement practices toward gender equality

09:01, March 09, 2010      

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Marking the 100th International Women's Day, the UN Development Fund for Women ( UNIFEM) and the UN Global Compact (UNGC) on Monday called on the business community to actively implement practices, particularly in recruitment and retention, to advance women's empowerment and inclusion in the workforce.

In their call for action, the UNIFEM and UNGC launched the " Women's Empowerment Principles-Equality Means Business," which contains seven steps for companies to take in order to empower women in the workplace, at the UN Headquarters in New York.

Drawn from real-life business practices, the principles are designed to help companies modify their existing policies and to guide them toward the implementation of any needed ones to achieve the goals of gender equality and the inclusion of women in the workforce.

According to the UNIFEM and UNGC, women continue to be widely under-represented in top positions and on boards with numbers showing a slow increase over the last decade.

"We seek to build support for a broader concept of corporate sustainability that more explicitly embraces women's empowerment as a key goal that will help foster sustainable development and benefit women and men," Georg Kell, executive director for the UNGC, said at the launch on Monday.

Kell highlighted some key principles, such as transparency and reporting, which can help manage risks as well as enforce best practices.

The principles also addressed underlying factors which impact businesses, such as violence against women.

Some 40 to 50 percent of women in the European Union are reported to have some form of sexual harassment at the workplace, the UNIFEM and UNGC said.

"Many businesses already have policies, practices and programs to empower women, but they are not necessarily seen as strategic to the business or a key element of a company's corporate responsibility efforts," Kell said.

Also speaking at the launch was Ines Alberdi, executive director for the UNIFEM, who expressed urgency that the "time is now for women's advancement and inclusion."

The event was held in parallel with the two-week-long 54th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meeting, in which more than 2,000 representatives of women's groups and UN officials gather and discuss goals of gender equality, development and peace, and set priority actions to achieve these goals.

Launched in 2000, the UNGC is a policy platform and a practical framework for companies which are committed to sustainability and responsible business practices.

The UNIFEM provides financial and technical assistance to innovative programs that foster women's empowerment and gender equality.

On March 9, the UNIFEM and UNGC will hold a conference in New York City to help bring together an international group of business leaders and innovators, as well as key stakeholders from various sectors, such as civil society, academia and the UN.

Supported by the government of Finland and the private sector company Symantec, the meeting will explore how the principles can be implemented in order to change corporate culture and attitudes toward gender equality and inclusion.

Source: Xinhua
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