The UNGC Local Network launches the Russian track of the Target Gender Equality international accelerator aimed at supporting participating companies that have recognized the need to set and achieve ambitious corporate goals for women's representation and leadership at senior and executive management levels.
The track involves a cycle of training events, as well as a series of local expert discussions and seminars in support of the program, which will be held by the Local Network in partnership with leading platforms and programs for women's leadership and gender equality. Partners include the Woman Who Matter (WWM) Forum and Award. On August 19, a public talk "With respect to everyone" was held together with Mary Kay, which supports international women's leadership programs of the UN GC, within the partnership at SOK Rybakov. The main topics of the talk covered current issues and problems of women's entrepreneurship. The speakers were Anna Sokolova, CEO Mary Kay Russia, Sofia Azizyan, Partner, Head of Audit Practice in Central, Eastern, Southeastern Europe and Central Asia, EY, and Marina Vashukova, Еxecutive Director of Association “National Network of the Global Compact”. Anna Rudakova, President of Diversity and Inclusion Association, founder and Director of Woman Who Matters Forum, moderated the discussion.
Why is it necessary to separate entrepreneurship into male and female?
From the UN point of view, the main reason for distinguishing between female and make entrepreneurship lies in two concepts: accessibility and vulnerability. The problem of gender equality and gender balance in entrepreneurship and business is part of the global crisis associated with the status of women and girls in the world, which is assessed – to varying degrees depending on the region, state and communities – in different ways, but still mainly in the context, causing fear, anxiety, concern or worry about the conditions in which they live, study, and work, as well as about their opportunities to make personal choices related to their life, future, destiny, and sometimes – and not rarely – their health, body, psychological and physical safety. Women and girls, along with children, people with disabilities, people living on the breadline, migrants due to conflicts or natural disasters, etc., are officially vulnerable categories for whom access to resources (land, financial, informational or others) is inhibited or impossible. Unlocking this access and new opportunities will significantly improve the lives and conditions of a large number of women and their families, the well-being of communities and, as a result, multiply the benefits for local and global economies.
Accordingly, my colleagues and I, first of all, look at the development of women's entrepreneurship and enabling environment for achieving gender balance in the private sector as one of the tools to overcome this crisis. The second important context is the development of an inclusive society and of economic fundamentals for sustainable development, which has become a new paradigm for human development and is focused, among other things, on the values of justice, inclusion, diversity, and equal opportunities for all,” Marina Vashukova stressed.
Vulnerability and support for women in pandemic
According to the Mastercard’s Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) study conducted in 2020, women around the world were the most affected group during the pandemic: the majority (87%) of businesswomen reported that the COVID-19 crisis has negatively impacted their businesses.
Obviously, the more vulnerable categories have suffered more: the poor have become even poorer, the oppressed – even more oppressed. And their support requires more serious, systemic and targeted measures.
Women are potentially more vulnerable and sensitive to crises in terms of gender and social roles. Women have suffered more from layoffs (just as they are often more vulnerable when hired), necessary assistance and support of children or families.
They have experienced a surge in domestic violence, they have a smaller rainy-day fund, they often find it more difficult to endure the psychological crisis of responsibility, the choice of the family often turns to women as “first victims” when deciding who can be the first to give up business or work in favor of the family. Women and their businesses are influenced by the choice of clients who are subject to their stereotypes, they suffer more deeply and painfully from the inflexibility of banking services, intolerance or malpractice of regulators, controlling entities, and etc.
The main UN structure for gender equality and the empowerment of women today is UN Women (United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women) – a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly, established in 2010 (launched in 2011). UN Women annually publishes the report "Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals: The gender snapshot". At the end of 2020, due to the consequences of the pandemic, a gender-related deterioration was recorded for each SDG.
SDG 1. A resurgence in extreme poverty – around 435 million women and girls are living on less than $1.90 a day — including 47 million pushed into poverty as a result of COVID-19.
SDG 2. Women have a higher (by 27%) risk than men of facing severe food insecurity. The risk has risen in this period and is still increasing.
SDG 3. Healthcare – women have been on the front lines here. Among infected healthcare workers (with available data) 72% were women
SDG 4. School closures have increased gender gaps in education. More than 11 million girls have faced the risk of not returning to school.
SDG 5. An estimated 243 million women and girls aged 15 to 49 were subjected to sexual and/ or physical violence. At least 200 million girls and women have been subjected to female genital mutilation (according to recent data this practice is concentrated in at least 30 countries). Globally in countries of relevant practice, 1 in 5 women 20 to 24 years of age were married in childhood. Child marriage and mutilation have stopped declining in number due to the pandemic (financial benefit is among the reasons).
SDG 8. Domestic workers and those employed in the informal economy have been especially hard hit by the pandemic. Nearly 72% of domestic workers, most of whom are women, have suffered job losses or reduced hours. Women spend 3x as many hours as men each day in unpaid care and domestic work. COVID-19 has added to women’s unpaid care workloads by times.
SDG 10. 3 in 10 women with disabilities will face multiple forms of discrimination.
At the same time, according to the report, in countries headed by women, the mortality statistics from COVID-19 are six times lower than the global average.
Support measures in the era of a pandemic should take into account all these particular aspects and risks of women and girls with considerations to local specifics. It is logical that these measures have at least two components. General ones for entrepreneurs (exemption from tax and other payment burdens, preferential loans, restrictions that are reasonable in each case, etc.). And necessarily specific ones - not only by industry, for example, and regions, but also by audience.
Business competencies and success in overcoming gender imbalance
Companies seeking gender balance report higher profitability. For example, achieving 30% female representation in leadership positions results in a 15% increase in profit margins. However, there are other factors that influence the earning power of the private sector and strongly support the need for gender equality goals. Noticeable diversity is indicative of an attractive work environment, which can contribute to greater employee retention and development of leadership ambitions within corporations.
As one study by Accenture showed, creating a culture of equality helps women feel like key team members, increases women's retention rate, and encourages them to strive for leadership positions. As consumers demand better representation of women in high-level positions, brands that do not prioritize gender balance and do not ensure non-discrimination environment are in danger of facing high reputational risks and possible lawsuits. More than 25,000 complaints of gender discrimination were filed in the U.S. alone in 2019.
There is growing evidence of a link between greater gender diversity and improved environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance. For example, some studies confirm that an increase in the number of women in leadership positions entails better corporate performance in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening relationships within teams and reducing fraud.
Despite the progress, women remain critically underrepresented in leadership. However, there is evidence that setting clear goals for gender balance at the leadership level can have a huge impact: having at least one woman in a leadership position increases the proportion of women moving promtly up the career ladder by 23%. Business leaders are increasingly reporting gender equality as a priority, but fewer than 30% of companies have set goals and targets that are time-specific and measurable in terms of impact. According to the Fortune 500 list, women head up 7% of companies; 17% of board seats worldwide were held by women in 2020; women are 22% less likely than men to reach the managerial level or higher.
There are reference corporate examples of the best cases from the UNGС library in this area, for example the following.
UNILEVER has achieved its goal of having 50% women at managerial and leadership levels worldwide. A dedicated diversity and inclusion team established the Global Diversity Council and formed a community of nearly 100 “champions of diversity and inclusion”. They have set milestones – benchmarks – for how a progressive corporate community can contribute to the development of an inclusive culture in all markets.
ACCENTURE has set ambitious goals to accelerate gender equality - by the end of 2020, the percentage of female managers has been increased to 25%, and by 2025, a gender balance of the workforce will be achieved – 50% to 50% of women and men (in the gender binary).
PVH has set women's empowerment, engagement and inclusion goals by 2030. The goals include ensuring gender parity in leadership positions, career opportunities for 500,000 women in supply chains, and universal training on unconscious bias.
To make progress, businesses need to build new competencies and skills on gender equality. For example, the UNGC offered its SDG Ambition program’s participants 10 benchmarks, which are necessary to understand how to link their activities to the SDGs through measurable indicators. One of these benchmarks is gender balance at all levels of governance.
To achieve this benchmark companies are implied and required to:
- Act to create inclusive jobs and an inclusive workspace where all workers are respected and empowered.
- Eliminate the gender pay gap (equal pay for work of equal value, a special corporate policy approval, annual analysis of a salary, compensation and opportunities management system, the use of accredited auditors for this purpose, the introduction of reporting processes and addressing violations of approved regulations, etc.).
- Recruiting and retaining the best talented women through recruiting, training and promoting systems, inclusive labor policies, performance-based remuneration systems, eliminating sexual harassment and equal pay for work of equal value.
- Ensure full transparency on specific indicators of gender balance / imbalance, such as headcount, wages and hiring practices. To encourage meaningful action, companies should develop systems to track difficult-to-measure obstacles to equity, such as unconscious bias and structural inequality. It is important to recognize that artificial intelligence and other technologies can inadvertently reinforce bias, so strategic decisions regarding integration are needed.
- Automate. For example, efforts to recruit more women can be hindered by bias-prone structures or commissions, selecting staff and most often composed of men. Machine-based automatic methods can diversify the ways such commissions work, complementing the process of recruiting and analyzing employees selected by those who have a great impact on the hiring balance. At Cisco company, for example, such an improvement in recruitment systems has led to an increase in the chances of being interviewed for Hispanic women (by 50%) and for African-American women (by 70%). It also allows for greater transparency (providing full access to the picture of gender diversity and equality grounded in real-time databases), predicting and managing bias.
- Regularly assess gender equality indicators within the company to track progress towards equality and women's representation in leadership and management, as well as to identify potential obstacles and opportunities to speed up positive change.
- Invest in systems for recruitment, hiring and talent management, ranging from skills development (e.g. launching women's initiatives) to targeted recruitment (e.g. through existing associations and communities).
The record is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgLkEiajoaY (in Russian)