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Leadership News Briefs

UN Global Compact Hosts First Target Gender Equality Live

Male-dominated culture won’t fix climate, racism and economic crises, says UN Secretary-General.

The world needs both women and men to solve challenges such as racism, climate change and economic recovery. The UN Secretary-General emphasized this at Target Gender Equality Live on March 16. The event was a virtual gathering of business, civil society and government leaders to discuss equity.

“Gender equality is essentially a question of power. We live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture in the public and private sector alike. In the private sector, women’s equal participation and leadership is both a moral duty and a business imperative. The world needs the talent and perspectives of all women to solve our biggest challenges. This is the only way to rebuild the global economy, fight systemic racism and tackle climate change,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said.

Event details

More than 4,500 people participated in the first Target Gender Equality Live event organized by the UN Global Compact. Convened during the 65th Commission on the Status of Women, this interactive gathering inspired business and other stakeholders. The program aimed to advance gender equality. This is particularly relevant when the gender gap is widening due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders discussed how the private sector can bring down barriers by respecting and supporting the rights of women and girls. 

Featured business leaders included:

  • Wendy Clark, CEO of Dentsu International
  • Michel Khalef, CEO of Metlife
  • Paul Polman, Co-founder of IMAGINE
  • Ann Cairns, Executive Vice Chair of Mastercard
  • Aakanksha Bhargava, CEO of PMR
  • Meshvara Kanjaya, CEO of PT Supra Boga Lestari
  • Roberto Marques, CEO of Natura &Co
  • Sally Gilligan, Chief Information Officer and Head of Strategy Gap Inc.
  • Olukayode Pitan, CEO of Bank of Industry
  • Deborah Gibbins, Chief Operating Officer of Mary Kay
  • Cristiano Cardoso Teixeir, CEO of Klabin

Attendee comments

“We believe companies should be accountable and encourage women’s empowerment in business,” Roberto Marques, CEO of Natura &Co said. 

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, noted that the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), established by UN Women and the UN Global Compact, provide a useful framework to guide business action.

“We have seen how adopting the WEPs has marked an important turning point in many companies. The Principles have served as signatories’ moral compass, blueprint and framework to lay out their gender equality ambitions. They have also offered access to a global network of companies with similar values. By removing barriers, the principles help signatories invest in their future and create an equitable world,” she said.

Impact of the Target Gender Equality program

UN Global Compact CEO & Executive Director Sanda Ojiambo announced that the Target Gender Equality program would be expanded. It has already helped more than 300 companies in 19 countries to set and meet ambitious targets for women’s representation and leadership. After, the program would be expanded to 45 countries. 

“Through our Target Gender Equality programme, the UN Global Compact is calling on all companies to set ambitious targets for women’s representation and leadership. As this programme rolls out and expands to more countries, I am optimistic that many more businesses will take up the challenge to create systemic, holistic change,” she said. 

Sessions organized by Global Compact Networks running the Target Gender Equality programme also provided an opportunity to understand the challenges and unpack the strategies and solutions needed to advance progress towards gender parity. At a session organized by Global Compact Network Kenya, Soraya Narfeldt, CEO and Chairperson of RA International, one of Africa’s leading remote site service providers, spoke about the challenges of recruiting women to non-traditional jobs and navigating cultural barriers, especially in remote communities.

Kariuki Ngari, Managing Director & CEO, ‎Standard Chartered Bank Kenya Limited, highlighted the importance of setting the tone from the top and adopting robust accountability measures, noting that “In the corporate world, whatever gets measured gets done.”

United Nations Global Compact

As a special initiative of the UN Secretary-General, the United Nations Global Compact is a call to companies everywhere to align their operations and strategies. They center around Ten Principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. Its ambition is to accelerate and scale the global collective impact of business by upholding the principles and delivering the Sustainable Development Goals through accountable companies and ecosystems that enable change. With more than 12,000 companies and 3,000 non-business signatories based in over 160 countries, and 69 Local Networks, the UN Global Compact is the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative — one Global Compact uniting business for a better world.

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