In October 2014, the Global Compact Network Australia and Australian National Committee for UN Women convened the Women’s Empowerment Principles Summit, to create a space for Australian businesses to consider the barriers to women’s workforce participation and design solutions that could be implemented in the coming years. Today, the outcomes document, Optimising Performance: Gender Equality in Business, was released.
Despite some progress towards women’s economic empowerment, Australian women still continue to face inequalities in the workplace, marketplace and community. Striving for gender equality in the workplace has many financial and organisational benefits, as well as broader societal and economic ramifications. There is growing recognition of the business case for empowering and advancing women and data increasingly confirms the relationship between gender equality and improved financial performance. The Grattan Institute has calculated that a 6 percent increase in women’s workforce participation would likely increase Australia’s gross domestic product by $25 billion. However, the fact that gender equality makes sound business sense needs to be communicated more effectively to business leaders to highlight the financial gains that can be achieved through a more gender equal workplace.
The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) – a joint initiative of the UN Global Compact and UN Women – provide a framework for businesses looking for guidance on how to implement better strategies for gender equality within the workplace. The framework can help practitioners apply a gender lens to corporate strategy with the hope of illustrating the benefits of gender equality.
The Women’s Empowerment Principles Summit asked participants to consider practical measures which they could implement to advance gender equality and women’s participation. The recommendations and ideas generated at the Summit are substantial contributions which, if implemented, would help correct gender imbalances in Australian workplaces. However, in order to achieve these goals, we need business leaders to champion the cause and implement the suggested changes in their companies.