UN High-Level Panel puts the spotlight on the private sector’s potential to advance women’s economic empowerment

Date: Thursday, September 7, 2017

Business leaders and global experts gathered on 6 September 2017 in London to discuss how the private sector can advance the recommendations of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel (HLP) on Women’s Economic Empowerment.

The private sector employs a significant proportion of the labour force worldwide and is therefore an essential partner in increasing women’s economic empowerment, for instance, through inclusive hiring and promotion policies, women’s workforce development, and allocating procurement spending to women-owned businesses. At the same time, women’s economic empowerment brings significant benefits to the companies that foster gender equality.

Purna Sen, UN Women Policy Director, moderates the “Empowering women in the economy” event held in London on 6 September 2017 to discuss how the private sector can advance the recommendations of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel (HLP) on Women’s Economic Empowerment. The event was co-organized by CARE International, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Business Fights Poverty, and the HLP. Photo: CARE International.
Purna Sen, UN Women Policy Director, moderates the “Empowering women in the economy” event held in London on 6 September 2017 to discuss how the private sector can advance the recommendations of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel (HLP) on Women’s Economic Empowerment. The event was co-organized by CARE International, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Business Fights Poverty, and the HLP. Photo: CARE International.

The event, co-organized by CARE International UK, UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Business Fights Poverty, UN Women, and the HLP, featured learnings from the private sector and other stakeholders on the implementation of some of the recommendations made by the HLP to advance women’s economic empowerment.

Gwen Hines, Director of International Relations of DFID, who served as a Deputy member of the HLP, shared: “DFID is taking forward the HLP recommendation on supporting women workers at the lowest end of supply chains to access better economic opportunities, through its flagship programme on Work Opportunities for Women (WOW), by actively engaging the private sector.”

Nana Asantewa Afadzinu, Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), presented a civil society perspective on women’s entrepreneurship and financial inclusion. She said: “Based on my experience in West Africa, I urge you to please think beyond ‘quick fixes’ towards more longer-term investments in women’s economic empowerment. Change takes time, and we need to transform the root causes of gender inequality. In my context, this will also entail shifting of cultural norms and working with community and religious leaders.”

Purna Sen, UN Women Director of Policy and Deputy HLP member, presented the panel’s outcomes and the toolkits that have been developed as a practical tool for organizations implementing the HLP recommendations. She highlighted: “The HLP reports make the important connection between ending gender-based violence and discrimination on the one hand, and achieving economic justice and rights for women on the other. Actions for women’s economic empowerment have proven successful with these complementary strategies.”

Purna Sen also moderated the panel discussion, which included a diverse group of stakeholders, such as Cindy Drakeman, CEO of DoubleXEconomy; Cathy Pieters, Director of Cocoa Life at Mondelez International. Cathy Pieters said: “We believe that it is thanks to the inclusion of women cocoa producers in the supply chain, and promoting their growth in agriculture value chains, that we have been able to drive success in our business.”

Participants also discussed how to measure ongoing implementation progress and highlighted the importance of partnerships for ensuring women’s economic empowerment. A poll conducted among the 150 members of the audience revealed that 72 per cent of them advocated for this. It also revealed that most participants agreed that women’s economic empowerment is a matter of human rights, and that businesses need to step up efforts in support of this agenda.

The UNSG’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment (HLP), established in 2016, identified seven key drivers for women’s economic empowerment (WEE) and made action-oriented recommendations for governments, private sector companies and civil society organizations to improve economic outcomes for women in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.