ITC puts focus on women’s empowerment at Global Compact

27 September 2013
ITC News
Leaders from the business sector, government and civil society gather at the United Nations Global Compact Leaders Summit to create a framework for corporations to facilitate women’s economic success

More than 600 corporations have committed to empowering women to find jobs, connect to global supply chains and succeed in the workplace – that was a key message at this year’s United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) Leaders Summit in New York.

‘Now we need to focus on building supply-side capacity,’ said Meg Jones, Senior Programme Officer of the Women and Trade Programme, representing the International Trade Centre (ITC) at the event.

The summit, held on 19 and 20 September in New York City under the theme of ‘Architects of a better world’, brought together chief executives, leaders from civil society, government officials and representatives of the United Nations to create a framework for the business sector to address global priorities, including women’s empowerment.

‘The Leaders Summit is a major opportunity to mobilize and expand the Global Compact network to act on all three pillars of sustainable development - social, economic and environmental,’ said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who chaired the event.

At a panel discussion about ‘Women’s empowerment and the Post-2015 Development Agenda’, speakers focused on how the economic empowerment of women drives sustainable development and how the private sector can advance gender equality in the workplace, marketplace and community. Ms Jones spoke about ITC’s approach to integrating women-owned companies into global supply chains.

‘The Global Platform for Action on Sourcing from Women Vendors helps companies find competitive goods and services supplied by companies owned by women,’ Ms Jones said at the panel, which was jointly organized by ITC, the UNGC, United Nations Women and the International Finance Corporation.

Through initiatives such as the Global Platform, ITC works with partner institutions to build the capacity of women entrepreneurs by enabling them to produce higher-quality goods and services, which makes them more competitive in global markets. So far 600 companies have signed on to the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), which marks companies’ willingness to commit to sourcing from women entrepreneurs.

Senapathy Gopalakrishnan, Co-founder and Executive Vice Chairman of Infosys Technologies Limited, a business-technology consulting company, also spoke on the panel about women’s empowerment. His company, which employs 155,000 people, underwent a transformation to improve gender equality, and now 34% of workers are women. As a result of revised policies aimed at retaining and promoting women workers, job applications from women have risen from 4% to 60% of the total.

On the second day of the summit, Ms Jones spoke at the Global Compact Action Fair, in which summit participants explore and commit to actions and partnerships to address development priorities.

WEPs is a joint initiative of the UNGC and the United Nations Women that offers practical guidance to businesses on how to empower women. ITC’s role is to contribute to Principle 5, to ‘implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women’ by enabling women entrepreneurs to meet buyers’ requirements.

Despite their significant participation in the economy, with more than 34% of firms worldwide having female participation in ownership, it is estimated that women win less than 1% of corporate procurement contracts. ITC, working with the UNGC through the Global Platform, seeks to change this by emphasizing the business case for corporate action to promote gender equality and women’s economic empowerment through trade.