Role of the Private Sector in Women’s Empowerment on the Agenda at 2019 WEPs Forum


More than 350 leaders from business, the public sector and academic institutions took part in the 2019 Women’s Empowerment Principles Forum: A Call to Action for Social Transformation in São Paulo in October.

Hosted by UN Women, the International Labor Organization and European Union, the forum’s aim was to contribute to greater private sector engagement in gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. Anna Falth, global head of the WEPs secretariat and manager of the EU-sister programme WE EMPOWER – G7, outlined the global WEPs strategy and roll out plans for 2020, including the WEPs Accelerator.

A series of debates over two days discussed the private sector’s role in progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and Beijing Platform for Action Commitments. Wider adoption of the practices of companies who have signed up to the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) – a UN Women and Global Compact initiative to help companies achieve gender equality – was recognized as central to increasing the private sector contribution.

A packed agenda over the two days included keynote addresses from a number of eminent officials. The importance of reinforcing gender equality at every level of society was the opening message of the EU Ambassador to Brazil, Ignácio Ybañez Rubio. He was followed by Michael Hann, Director of the ILO in Brazil, who stressed that gender equality can only be achieved with more women in senior leadership positions in every industry.

Delegates heard presentations on diverse topics including women’s barriers to credit and strengthening men’s commitment to women’s economic empowerment. Economic Empowerment Specialist Raquel Coello presented the UN Women’s new Equal Remuneration Diagnosis (DIR) tool, which helps organizations assess whether they are applying the Equal Pay for Equal Value Work principle. Panel events led by over 70 experts covered topics including equal pay, parental leave, gender-sensitive procurement and elimination of gender stereotyping in advertising.

In summing up the event, UN Women Regional Director for the Americas and the Caribbean, Maria-Noel Vaeza, set out the importance of a collective effort: “All initiatives presented in the 2019 forum to improve women's working conditions are important forms of revolution. It is crucial to work together and demonstrate that we can make a difference, whether by raising financial resources or by working to create a fairer society.”

The 2019 forum was held as part of the Win-Win Programme: Gender Equality means Good Business, which is underpinned by the WEPs and is open to companies in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Uruguay. The event closed with an invitation for companies to continue playing a key role in promoting gender equality and women's economic empowerment through the implementation of the WEPs.

Watch the live stream here.

Photographer & Videographer Credit: Gustavo Dantas
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