“Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights,” Hillary Clinton boldly declared at the UN Fourth World Congress on Women. In 1995, this was a landmark statement.
The same event would go on to produce the most ambitious and inclusive agenda for global women’s rights: the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Twenty-five years later, the world is grappling with a global pandemic that has deeply exacerbated gender inequality. At the same time, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to drive progress for gender equality: the Generation Equality Forum is a global gathering that will establish a roadmap for how to scale up and mobilize urgent action—in order to achieve gender equality within a generation.
BSR is partnering with the B Team and Women Win/Win-Win Strategies to engage the private sector—mobilizing both companies with established women’s empowerment programs and those looking to get involved in the movement—toward making meaningful commitments to promote gender equality through the Forum and across six key themes, or Action Coalitions:
- Gender-based violence
- Economic justice and rights
- Bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights
- Feminist action for climate justice
- Technology and innovation for gender equality
- Feminist movements and leadership
The Forum is organized through a multi-stakeholder and multigenerational campaign, including the private sector, governments, foundations, and civil society organizations. Active participation of business leaders and the collective expertise of the private sector will be an essential component to the success of the Forum—and ultimately, our ability to achieve the goal of gender equality.
Women intersect with business throughout the value chain, providing multiple entry points to promote gender equality. The Forum offers an opportunity to leverage these entry points across the workplace, marketplace and community. Through collective action and partnerships with governments and civil society, business can help to catalyze meaningful change for women across value chains, industries, and regions.
Corporate action for gender equality is not new: more than 3,000 companies have signed on to the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs). And many companies are taking steps specifically to address gender equality in their supply chain. For example, Kering partnered with BSR to review the workplace gender equality policies and practices of 189 suppliers and the perceptions and experiences of 880 workers in their Italian luxury supply chain. The research highlighted significant challenges for women workers and identified clear opportunities for the luxury sector to lead efforts toward more gender-inclusive supply chains in Italy.
We have seen mounting evidence that prioritizing gender equality creates strategic advantages for companies. Gender-diverse workforces help to attract talent, reduce turnover, and can contribute to building trust with clients and consumers. Companies with women in leadership outperform their competitors, with a McKinsey study finding a 55 percent increase in average company earnings before interest and tax. On a macro level, achieving gender equality could add upwards of US$12 trillion to the world’s economy.
Despite the momentum from the Beijing commitments and the Sustainable Development Goals (where Goal 5 is Gender Equality), gender equality remains an elusive goal. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly exacerbated social and economic inequalities, and it is estimated that it could wipe out 25 years of global progress toward gender equality.
At the same time, the current crisis has shed light on the essential role women play as leaders, caregivers, frontline workers, and activists. New research across 17 countries highlights the growing consensus on gender equality: 80 percent of respondents believe gender equality is an important cause to work toward, and 60 percent feel gender equality is essential to end poverty in all countries.
Now is the time to join this critical movement as Generation Equality Commitment Makers, encouraging your company to make a bold and transformative commitment to one or several Action Coalitions to define and drive catalytic change for gender equality. Companies like Kering, Microsoft, and PayPal have already joined as Action Coalition Leaders.
We invite all companies to join BSR, the B Team, and Women Win/Win-Win Strategies for a webinar on March 2, 2021 to explore the types of engagement opportunities that companies can expect at the Generation Equality Forum and why you should get involved.