ICC Advocates for Women Empowerment Through Technology

The annual UN High Level Political Forum wrapped up last week having measured progress and implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in the past two years. USCIB was on the ground during Agriculture and Food Day, which focused on Goal 2-Ending Hunger, as well as the UN SDG Business Forum, which focused on business support among all 17 SDG’s.  SDG 5 aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls and calls for enhances use of enabling technology –information and communications technologies (ICT’s) in particular—to promote the empowerment of women.  For many women around the world, ICT’s can be leveraged for personal security, better access to education and jobs, financial inclusion and access to basic healthcare information. But benefits such as these rely on women having meaningful access to ICT which can be facilitated or prevented by several factors, including affordability, relevant content, skills and security.

To help turn commitment into action, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) partnered with UN Women – the global champion for gender equality – to host a side-event during the HLPF.  The event, Accelerating Women’s Economic Empowerment to Achieve the 2030 Agenda, showcased the global efforts stakeholders have embarked on to bring women’s economic empowerment to the forefront of all the SDG targets.

“Through innovation, investment and development of products and services, the private sector plays an important role in advancing gender equality and improving the lives of women,” said Barbara Wanner USCIB vice president for ICT Policy. ICC highlighted several private sector initiatives during the side-event that are catalyzing women’s economic empowerment in developed and developing countries and presented the role of ICT’s in advancing the SDG’s.

Participants included contributors to the UN Secretary General High-Level Panel for Women’s Economic Empowerment and representatives from the governments of the United Kingdom and Costa Rica, UN Women, the International Labor Organization, ICC Secretary General John Danilovich, and Carolyn Nguyen of Microsoft who is also vice-chair of the ICC Commission on the Digital Economy.

For additional information on this event, please visit ICC’s website.

BIAC Workshop on Gender Equality and Skills: Preparing All our Minds for Work: Girls, Women and Learning over a Lifetime

This is the third BIAC workshop on gender equality, and will address the 3rd “E” of the OECD project on Gender: Education.  The workshop will present business initiatives that promote lifelong education and training of women, explore questions related to soft skills and career preference, and discuss how the digital economy and related skills are opening new pathways for women at work.   The workshop aims to deliver an evidence base from the business perspective contributing to OECD work in the field and to support the recommendations of the OECD Council Recommendation on Gender Equality. 

Participants will be from Business, Government and OECD.

BIAC Report:  The workshop will serve as a basis for a BIAC written report on gender equality education and skills.

IOE Celebrates International Women’s Day

Women_lawInternational Women’s Day celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. As employers strive to advance women’s empowerment, they must also identify current and long-standing barriers to women’s economic opportunities in their countries. Removing legal barriers to women’s advancement is a policy priority for the business community, as full female empowerment would unlock the full potential of a country’s workforce.

Public policy should be the result of an active dialogue and engagement between the public and private sectors, as well as with other stakeholders to deliver policies that align with and support efforts by business to advance women’s economic opportunities.

The International Organization of Employers (IOE) celebrated International Women’s Day in a constructive spirit by organizing a webinar on promoting economic opportunities for women around the world. The IOE and its members stand ready to collaborate in advancing gender diversity and supporting the economic dividend this creates for women, families, companies and society.

During the webinar, Augusto Lopez-Claros, director of global indicators group at the World Bank, presented the findings of a 2016 World Bank report on “Women, Business, and the Law,” which examines laws and regulations affecting women’s prospects as entrepreneurs and employees across 173 economies. The report’s quantitative indicators are intended to inform policy discussions on how to remove legal restrictions on women and promote research on how to improve women’s economic inclusion.

The report will be a useful tool for governments seeking to revise existing laws that are discriminatory against women and improve the circumstances surrounding women as economic actors, from better childcare and family support to greater workplace and labor market flexibility.


USCIB Promotes Women’s Empowerment in the Food Supply Chain

africa_fruit_vendors_lo-resThis week delegates from around the work will be reviewing world food security policies at the 42nd session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  A record-setting 126 private sector representatives from 39 countries have registered to attend the 42nd plenary session taking place from October 12 to 15 in Rome. CFS is one of the most inclusive intergovernmental platforms that allows stakeholders to work together and ensure food security and nutrition for all.

In an effort to catalyze political will and focus around food security, USCIB supported an event on October 9 in Rome about “Women’s Empowerment: Solutions at the Nexus of Agriculture, Nutrition and Enterprise,” co-chaired by Cherie Blair, president and founder of Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and Irene Khan, director general of the International Law Development Office. The event convened high-level representatives from business, government and NGOs for a dialogue about women’s access to productive resources (finance, tools, technology, land), women’s contributions to health and nutrition and the role of women in fostering food security.

Shaun Donnelly, USCIB’s vice president for investment and financial services, participated in the broad-based roundtable discussion, which included business leaders, 12 FAO ambassadors and representatives from leading NGOs. There was  broad agreement about the challenges faced by women and the importance of having multi-stakeholder partnerships to  empower women in agriculture and supply chains. Empowering women would improve food security and nutrition, as well as create a positive ripple effect in raising the standard of living for their families and strengthening their communities.

Many agreed that when women have more control over household assets and income, they invest more in their families’ food, health, education and children’s well-being. Thriving families are better positioned to contribute meaningfully to their communities, and a well-nourished population is better able to participate in the workforce. By empowering women in agriculture and supply chains, the world can make significant gains toward realizing the FAO’s Strategic Objectives and several of the broader United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as:

Call to Action: Bringing Down Legal Barriers for Women’s Economic Empowerment

The global economy has much to gain from the full empowerment of women. As arguably the world’s most underutilized resource, women are essential to increasing economic growth, establishing more just societies, improving quality of life for families and communities and boosting the profitability of enterprises.

Around the world, too many laws still discriminate on the basis of gender, with dramatic consequences on women’s ability to contribute to economic growth. To address these injustices, USCIB partnered with the United Nations Global Compact, the International Chamber of Commerce, the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD, the International Labor Organization, the World Bank Group and other organizations to “call upon Governments from around the world to bring down legal barriers restricting economic opportunities for women, and by doing so, help create an enabling environment for inclusive economic growth.”

The call to action was publicly launched on Saturday September 26 at the Private Sector Forum held during the UN General Assembly, the day after the UN Sustainable Development Goals were launched.  A number of USCIB companies are actively involved in initiatives to fulfill Goal 5 of the SDGs, which is focused on empowering women and several others have taken a lead role in the UN Global Compact’s “Business for Rule of Law” initiative and other rule of law promotion activities.

USCIB has been active on women’s empowerment for some time. In March, USCIB co-organized an event titled “Bringing Down the Barriers: Women, Business and the Rule of Law,” held in parallel with the UN meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CWS) and in support of the 2014 World Bank report on Women, Business and the Law, which evaluated the economic impacts of gender discrimination laws across the world. USCIB has also taken a lead role in authoring a number of reports with BIAC for the OECD’s work on empowering women.

Read more: Putting ALL Our Minds to Work: Women and Entrepreneurship

Putting ALL Our Minds to Work: Women and Entrepreneurship

4982_image002Entrepreneurship is an important driver of economic development and growth, and a facilitator of empowerment for women around the world. For the past several years, USCIB and BIAC have supported the Organization for Cooperation and Development (OECD) Gender Initiative, which promotes public and private sector collaboration with the aim of removing persistent obstacles to gender equality in education, employment and entrepreneurship as well as measuring and monitoring the progress in achieving this goal together.

USCIB has contributed to two workshops and three reports on women’s empowerment published and organized by BIAC, the most recent of which, “Putting ALL Our Ideas to Work: Women and Entrepreneurship,” was unveiled on March 23 at an OECD gender initiative meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“Our economies cannot afford to miss out on the contributions of talented women entrepreneurs,” wrote Bernhard Welschke, BIAC’s secretary general, in the report’s preface. “BIAC welcomes OECD efforts to mainstream gender equality across various aspects of its work.”

Read the report.

The new report on entrepreneurship offers practical experience to policymakers in identifying best practices, addressing obstacles and implementing policies that will help unleash the potential for women’s entrepreneurship activities. Access to capital remains the biggest obstacle for women entrepreneurs, who own between one fourth and one third of all the world’s businesses.

The report also notes that many multinational corporations understand well the business and economic case for greater participation of women in the workforce and have introduced programs aimed at supporting women-owned businesses and women entrepreneurs. Public policies that foster women entrepreneurs are also key to increasing their numbers and contributing to their success. Regulatory and legal frameworks should not raise barriers to women.

Phil O’Reilly, BIAC’s chairman, unveiled the report at a meeting of the OECD Southeast Asia Gender Initiative. He spoke at a panel about the role gender plays in Southeast Asian businesses, which addressed the challenges and opportunities of achieving gender equality of opportunity in one of the world’s most dynamic regions.

Business Makes the Case for Gender Diversity

women workplaceThe International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Secretary General John Danilovich has urged businesses and governments to step up efforts to engage women more fully in the workforce, particularly in leadership positions.

Danilovich told business, government and university representatives gathered in Sydney that despite making up over half of the world’s population, women’s contribution to measured economic activity was far below its potential.

“There is a huge unrealized economic opportunity,” said Danilovich. “Given the need for effective solutions to sustain global growth, it is both economically and socially necessary to tap into the skills and talent of women that are currently underutilized or left out of the labour force altogether. Since 812 million of the 865 million women worldwide who have the potential to contribute more fully to their economies live in the developing world, this is especially necessary for emerging and developing nations, since.”

The new ICC Secretary General was speaking at an event called “Women’s Empowerment Principles: Equality Means Business”, organized by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry alongside this week’s B20 summit for business leaders from Australia and across the G20 member countries.

Read more on the ICC website

More on USCIB’s work on gender diversity

Staff contact: Justine Badimon

Business Actions Key to Advancing Womens Economic Empowerment



(L-R) Michael Goltzman (the Coca-Cola Company), Ellie Bertani (Wal-Mart) , Ronnie Goldberg (USCIB), Nicole Primmer (BIAC), Madonna Jarrett (Deloitte), Justine Badimon (USCIB), Rachel Spence (USCIB)
(L-R) Michael Goltzman (the Coca-Cola Company), Ellie Bertani (Wal-Mart) , Ronnie Goldberg (USCIB), Nicole Primmer (BIAC), Madonna Jarrett (Deloitte), Justine Badimon (USCIB), Rachel Spence (USCIB)

Private sector initiatives remain key to driving the advancement of women in the workplace. But progress remains slow and uneven, according to Putting All our Minds to Work: An Assessment, a survey report released today by BIAC and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.

The report, which assesses recent changes in corporate practice to advance women into leadership positions, follows the 2012 BIAC/AmCham Report and Toolkit: Putting All our Minds to Work: Harnessing the Gender Dividend.

As a follow-up to the survey report, women’s entrepreneurship served as the focus of a BIAC Workshop in Paris today, which brought together companies, entrepreneurs, governments and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) officials to discuss the challenges women face in starting and growing their businesses.

USCIB member companies – Wal-Mart, UPS and the Coca-Cola Company – contributed to the workshop and discussed their corporate programs that promote and support women’s entrepreneurship in the local communities in which they operate and within their supply chains. The companies highlighted the positive effects of supporting women-owned enterprises on their bottom line, emphasizing that the programs are not corporate social responsibility, but business initiatives.

USCIB’s Ronnie Goldberg, senior counsel and chair of BIAC’s Committee on Employment, Labor and Social affairs, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for BIAC to stimulate creative and innovative thinking on best practices and policies necessary to support women’s enterprises across all sectors of the economy.”

As cited in the survey report, over 66 percent of companies surveyed reported an increase in the percentage of women in executive leadership positions since 2010. Forty-seven percent have introduced policy and practice changes aimed at women at the managerial level, and 44 percent have done so for women in executive leadership positions.

Some of the most common practices cited by companies to advance women in the workplace include “high potential development plans,” workplace flexibility policies, inclusive leadership development, mentorship and provisions for parental leave.

Despite progress, more than half of the respondents hand not recently introduced new plans to encourage women’s advancement in their workplace.

“The survey results show that while progress is being made, more effort is required across the board before organizations can generate greater economic empowerment of women,” said Bernhard Welschke, secretary general of BIAC. “Neither economies nor companies can afford to miss out on the contributions of women. Progress depends on senior leadership in business and government, as well as in society working together to support women in the workforce and encouraging them as entrepreneurs.”

The greatest catalysts for change within organizations are the CEO, senior managers and the Board, while laws, political leadership and corporate governance were seen as comparatively more promising in markets without female hiring quotas, and the media and academia in markets with quotas, all pointing to the fact that more must and can be done.

The survey also found that 22 percent of surveyed companies reported losing women from leadership positions through voluntary resignations. Reasons cited included better opportunities elsewhere or lack of promotion or career development challenges.

The reasons given for women leaving the workplace suggest the current business environment is not providing the majority of female employees’ adequate support.

“Talented women are making their own choices – and too many are choosing simply to step off the corporate ladder believing further advancement is not available to them. This has to change and change needs leadership,” said Steve Almond, chairman of Deloitte Global. “Business leaders must own the issue of gender diversity instead of pushing the job off to Human Resources; they need to move beyond declarations to substantive engagement, providing sponsors, coaches and mentors to help talented women achieve their true potential. This is not about lowering the hurdle; it is about encouraging women to stay the course to give themselves the chance of clearing the hurdle.”

The report and workshop will be followed by continued work from BIAC and USCIB on advancing women’s economic empowerment in coordination with the OECD Recommendation of the Counsel on Gender Equality and as a lead up to their future work in this area, especially in regard to supporting women’s entrepreneurship.

View the Workshop Photos (flickr).

Watch Goldberg’s closing remarks (YouTube).

Staff contact: Ronnie Goldberg and Justine Badimon