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.
Women are underrepresented in power and decision-making roles. 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. Women’s economic empowerment benefits both women and children. It is pivotal to the health and social development of families, communities and nations. Further, the UN’s 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.
Companies that focus on women’s empowerment experience greater business success. Research shows investing in women and girls can lead to increases in productivity, organizational effectiveness, return on investment and higher consumer satisfaction.
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.
We believe that at a minimum, business has the responsibility to respect the rights of women and girls, such as by putting in place non-discrimination and sexual harassment policies.
In addition, companies can create inclusive business models and invest in women’s economic empowerment programmes. They can also partner with organizations to advance women’s rights and advocate for gender equality policies. Such actions to support women’s rights should be a complement, not a substitute for respecting women’s rights.
To learn more about how business can advance gender equality and women’s empowerment, see the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), a joint initiative of UN Global Compact and UN Women.