"Empowering women isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s the smart thing to do," Barack Obama said on International Women's Day in 2013. "When women succeed, nations are more safe, more secure, and more prosperous."
Many world leaders agree. In 2010, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the United Nations Global Compact collaborated to establish a set of principles providing businesses with guidance on how to empower women at work, at home, and in their lives. Since then, more than 1,800 CEOs from businesses around the world have signed the Women's Empowerment Principles. (Visit weprinciples.org to see if your company is on the list or to sign yourself.)
The Women's Empowerment Principles are as follows:
1. Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
2. Treat all women and men fairly at work – respect and support human rights and nondiscrimination
3. Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers
4. Promote education, training and professional development for women
5. Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
6. Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy
7. Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality
How do you incorporate these principles into your organization?
Change doesn't happen overnight. If your company is laggining in terms of opportunities for women and women's leadership roles, start by seeing where you are—which often means surveying all employees to gauge attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that concern gender disparity and other issues related to workplace discrimination and men and women feeling safe and secure in their working environments.
Ask for suggestions on initiatives that could improve the environment of the office. Perhaps you could set up a women empowerment program that gives more women a voice and say in business procedures. Estabish development goals for improving gender diversity in your workplace. Perhaps your development goals might include targets for women in leadership position or participation of women in key decisions.
While all these principles are important, perhaps the one to which you should pay the most attention is ensuring the health and well-being of all employees—men and women alike—in your work environment. Make it clear that gender-based violence—or any type of violence—will not be tolerated.
Health and well-being aren't limited to preventing gender-based violence and sexual harassment from taking place. You should also work to establish initatives that build a healthy environment that supports employees. Take the time to educate employees about violence against women and other minority groups, as well as issue's related to women's health. You might bring in speakers or hold workshops. Establish initiatives that support employees, such as programs like on-site daycare for working parents.
Even if you're not an executive, you can make change happen in your company and promote a culture that supports people of all genders.