Addis Ababa – Africa has more than 700 companies with annual revenues of more than $ 500 million, including 400 with revenues of more than $ 1 billion. The ability of these companies to thrive rests on building and retaining talented women and men.
Empowering both women and men employees, suppliers, distributors and customers and ensuring that they succeed is not only a human rights obligation, it is a good thing and is increasingly becoming a core part of their mission and values.
Private sector involvement is the key to gender equality
Deepening private sector engagement, both large and small, is key to achieving the Global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs). It is possible to achieve targets for full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, and equal pay for work of equal value (SDG 8) and gender equality and to empower all women and girls (SDG 5).
Growing jobs in retail, food and agriculture, healthcare, financial services, light manufacturing and construction are already affecting communities. Companies can promote sustainable development and economic empowerment of women by choosing to do business in ways that ensure that women and men can contribute and benefit equally.
By putting gender equality at the heart of business practices, the private sector can be a driving force for economic and social progress that benefits everyone.
Despite progress, gender gaps remain and the prospects of women in the world of work are far from equal to men. Today, more women are trained and participate in the labor market and there is more awareness that more gender equality reduces poverty and promotes economic development.
Yet six out of ten women participate in the labor force compared to seven out of ten men, and the unemployment rate for women (8.2%) is higher than men (6.4%). For every dollar a man earns in manufacturing, services and trade, women earn only 70 cents.
There are opportunities
Globally, the promotion of gender equality could increase GDP by 12% by 2025, amounting to 300 million more economic production in sub-Saharan Africa. The UNDP report on closing gender gaps in labor and productive resources in Africa found that if women were to join the labor force at the same rate as men, an additional 74.4 million women would enter the labor force and economic production would increase by $ 962 billion.
Closing gender gaps in women’s labor force participation, paid work, employment and productivity could increase economic output by 3% to 16%.
Obstacles to overcome
Deeper-rooted barriers to achieving the full potential of women at work include low-paying jobs, few channels to express their concerns, and structural and cultural barriers to career advancement. These include teaching gaps, stereotypes, lack of female role models, the absence of good childcare options and decent maternity leave, as well as the risks to their personal safety and security.
Only 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa comply with or exceed the ILO standard of 14 weeks paid maternity leave.
Women in men dominate sectors such as mining, harassment and gender-based violence and limited inclusion in mining value chains. Social norms give women and girls the main responsibility for grooming and housework, and therefore they spend on average twice as much time as men.
Empowering women is good for business and livelihood
Unilever derives profit from a sustainable lifestyle plan with gender equality in its business model. As women represent more than 70% of Unilever’s consumers, increasing their income can lead to increased consumption and empowerment as micro-entrepreneurs selling Unilever products generate new customers, many in poor and rural areas.
Fifty companies in Uganda and Rwanda empower women and achieve SDGs through UNDP’s Gender Seal Certification Program for the Private Sector. The Gender Seal Initiative states that a company promotes and integrates gender equality measures as an integral part of corporate governance and ‘good causes’.
This program is a pioneer by UNDP in Latin America in 2009 to provide tools, guidance, and assessments to eliminate gender-based wage gaps; increasing female roles in decision-making; improving work-life balance; improving women’s access to non-traditional work; the eradication of sexual harassment at work; and the use of inclusive, non-sexist communication.
Participating enterprises are changing the organizational culture, changing cultural norms and social expectations and providing more equal opportunities for women and men in the workplace through the implementation of a GEMS management system (GEMS).
It creates career advancement for women, more participation in leadership, and improved human resource management, strategic planning and communication.
As more public and private organizations in Gambia, South Africa and Gambia work with UNDP to promote gender equality, UNDP in Africa is developing a group of experts in Africa.
Cross-regional collaboration with Latin America includes training and customization of tools taking place in November 2018 in Kampala, Uganda for experts from 20 countries.