Trade Forum Features

Empowered women lead the way out of economic gloom

2 July 2012
ITC News

In the wake of the financial crisis that has destroyed trillions of dollars of value, there is an urgent need for financial strategies that focus on long-term value creation. The corporate sector and governments need to understand, now more than ever, that investing in women must be a large part of that solution. Besides the moral imperative for gender balance, research and examples conclusively show time and time again that equality means business.

Sharon Allen, the former chairman of Deloitte, wrote about the concept of the Gender Dividend: ‘Organizations that are able to capitalize on the roles women play as economic actors will most likely have a competitive advantage as the world pulls out of the global recession.’

To capitalize on this extraordinary time in the history of women and the world, the International Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW) is prioritizing three policy-led initiatives for its current triennium (2011–2014):

1.  Women’s Empowerment Principles
2.  Equal Pay Day awareness campaign
3.  Women entrepreneurship and trade through the Global Platform for Action on Sourcing from Women Vendors

Women’s Empowerment Principles

The Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs) offer guidance on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. They are the result of the collaboration between the United Nations Development Fund for Women (part of UN Women) and the United Nations Global Compact. The WEPs emphasize the business case for corporate action to promote gender equality and women's empowerment, and seek to point the way to best practice by elaborating the gender dimension of good corporate citizenship, the UN Global Compact and the role of business in sustainable development.

BPW International stands behind the principles because they speak to the interests of all our members, and the ultimate goal of our organization. It is imperative that we provide the private sector with a road map to implement change. These WEPs are that roadmap and BPW’s members are the empowered women leading business.

Equal Pay Day awareness campaign

The fact remains that across the world, in countries at all stages of economic development and prosperity, women are paid less to do the same work as men. Equal Pay Day marks how far into the next financial year a woman would need to work, on average, before she would earn the same amount as a man earned in the previous financial year alone. Because the pay gap differs from country to country, the Equal Pay Day for each country is different.

BPW International will promote Equal Pay Days where they have already been established and, through our network of members and clubs, introduce Equal Pay Days in countries where the day is not already marked.

The Global Platform for Action on Sourcing from Women Vendors

BPW has joined the International Trade Centre (ITC) and WEConnect International in support of the Global Platform for Action on Sourcing from Women Vendors.

The first Global Platform, held in Chongqing in September 2011, was immensely successful, resulting in nearly US$ 15 million in purchasing contracts between multinational organizations and women-owned businesses. BPW is now sending out a clarion call to all its members, their clients and their friends: Get involved and register as a woman entrepreneur or women-owned business ready to engage with these large corporations as they continue to branch out into the developing world, building new head offices and globalizing communities.

BPW conducts an online survey open to all its members to assist ITC in determining the sector types in which women-owned businesses are active, and to identify women who are suited to share in the rich benefits of this programme. We provide the results of this survey to our partners at ITC and we continue to advocate for greater involvement with the programme throughout the year.

The world cannot afford to perpetuate the barriers preventing women from realizing their full economic, social and political rights. BPW International has judged that the three initiatives outlined here will not only help women achieve equality in the workplace and in their communities, but lead to increased prosperity, greater distribution of wealth, healthier and better educated workforces and larger national economies for all people.

Women's Empowerment Principles 

1. Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality

2. Treat all women and men fairly at work – respect and support human rights and non-discrimination

3. Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers

4. Promote education, training and professional development for women

5. Implement enterprise development, supply-chain and marketing practices that empower women

6. Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy

7. Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality

Source: UN Women and United Nations Global Compact

The International Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW) has over 80 years of history and has enjoyed consultative status at the United Nations through the Economic and Social Council since 1947. Representing 30,000 members across 98 countries, BPW ensures that women have equal rights in the workplace and in their communities, in both the public and private sectors.