Gender equality is a fundamental human right. Yet despite progress, women and girls around the world do not fully experience equal rights and their potential as economic, social and sustainable development change-agents remains untapped. It will currently take over 267 years to achieve equality in terms of women’s economic empowerment and participation.
Women are underrepresented across business. They receive unequal pay for equal work and they continue to be targets of physical and sexual abuse. Additionally, women-owned enterprises are economically disadvantaged and lack equal opportunity to compete for business opportunities. Women also face legal and other barriers that affect their opportunities at work and as entrepreneurs.
Empowering women and girls helps expand economic growth, promote social development and establish more stable and just societies. In fact, studies show that women and men participating equally in the economy could add a further US$28 trillion to global annual gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) underscore women’s empowerment as an important development objective, in and of itself, and highlight the relevance of gender equality to addressing a wide range of global challenges.
The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) are a set of Principles offering guidance to business on how to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace, marketplace and community. Established by UN Global Compact and UN Women in 2010, the WEPs are informed by international labour and human rights standards and grounded in the recognition that businesses have a stake in, and a responsibility for, gender equality and women’s empowerment. To date, over 6,000 companies have signed the WEPs CEO Statement of Support, committing to advancing gender equality at the highest level.
Grounded in the WEPs Principles, the WEPs Gender Gap Analysis Tool is an anonymous, free, user-friendly tool that over 4,000 companies have taken to identify strengths, gaps and opportunities to improve their performance on gender equality.
Target Gender Equality builds on and supports the objectives of the WEPs by helping companies set and meet ambitious targets for women’s representation and leadership in business – a key component of the WEPs. Now in its second year, Target Gender Equality has over 800 companies across 40 countries working to strengthen their contribution to Sustainable Development Goal 5.5, which calls for equal women representation, participation and leadership in business globally.
Learn more about how business can accelerate process on gender equality through our E-Learning Course on the UN Global Compact Academy.
Advancing gender equality in business is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. Research shows investing in women and girls can lead to increases in productivity, organizational effectiveness, return on investment and higher consumer satisfaction. Companies with the highest proportion of female employees had annual returns that were 2.8 percentage points higher than the least diverse firms. A growing number of business leaders recognize the importance of women as leaders, consumers, entrepreneurs, workers and caretakers. They are adapting their policies, programmes and initiatives to create environments where women and girls thrive.
Looking beyond the workplace, companies are enhancing support for women in the marketplace through building inclusive supply chains and implementing equitable standards of engagement. In 2022, the UN Global Compact will be expanding support for business in this area by offering learning materials on the integral role business has to play in working with more women-owned business in their supply chain, as well as supporting suppliers to adopt more gender-responsive business practices.
Ways to Engage