Michelle Yeoh urges Asia-Pac governments to adopt UNDP gender equality seal
The Malaysian government has agreed to explore introducing the Gender Equality Seal Certification.
SINGAPORE: Michelle Yeoh, award winning actress and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Goodwill Ambassador called upon governments and businesses in Asia and the Pacific to strive for gender equality.
Speaking at the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development in Singapore Yeoh called on governments in the region to adopt UNDP’s Gender Equality Seal Programme, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Inequality abounds in schools, workplaces, in government and beyond, and that is why we need the Gender Equality Seal Certification Programme for Public and Private Enterprises,” said Michelle Yeoh.
“If we do not capture the energy and creativity of women we cannot achieve the full potential of our economies and societies.”
The programme, implemented by national governments with UNDP support, enables public and private companies to address gender disparities in the workplace, and establish environments where women’s work and contributions are valued.
On average, women in Asia are less likely than men to be in the labor force – 70% less likely, in fact. Among the small numbers of women in South Asia who do work, only 15% of them are wage and salaried workers. Globally women earn 23 per cent less than men.
This Certification Programme is a tool to move forward the SDG 5 Agenda, the goal to improve gender equality.
Since 2010, UNDP has supported the development and implementation of the Gender Equality Seal Certification Programme in 12 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean region. Over 1400 private and public enterprises have been participating in the project, 419 of which have received certification by national authorities.
Haoliang Xu, UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific said: “We are pleased to confirm that the Government of Malaysia has agreed to explore introducing the Gender Equality Seal Certification.”
UNDP is planning to expand the model world-wide, and the introduction of the Gender Equality Seal Certification programme in Asia and the Pacific is in response to requests from Asian and European countries.
“SDG 5, Gender Equality, cuts across all the goals and this is vital to achieve the SDGs by 2030. The Gender Equality Seal Certification illustrates UNDP as a facilitator of the SDGs and a leading player in creating tools to enhance SDG 5 achievements,” said Mr. Xu.” The Gender Seal is one avenue for closer collaboration with the private sector, which is crucial for the achievement of the SDGs.”
The introduction of the Gender Seal Certification Programme in the Asia-Pacific region is aimed at dealing with the various challenges of gender equality in the region. Currently, about 11 % of companies have no women at senior management levels and 26 % have no women on their boards.
“The private sector can make a critical contribution to eradicate gender inequalities and drive sustainable development,” said Raquel Lagunas, UNDP’s Senior Advisor on Gender Mainstreaming.
“By implementing gender equality standards within their own companies, the private sector can ensure equal opportunities for women, create inclusive work environments and help achieve Sustainable Development Goals focused on gender equality, decent work and economic growth and reduce inequalities.”
According to Lagunas, the programme will help governments to improve legislation and develop national policies on gender at the workplace.
UNDP expects that the programme will help companies increase productivity. improve workers’ engagement, bring about greater efficiency and staff performance, reduce absenteeism, and enhance the public image of the private sector. The key objective is to increase economic empowerment of women.
With Malaysia expressing interest in the programme, UNDP is looking to identify other potential countries in Asia and the Pacific in 2017 to expand the reach of the programme. UNDP will support selected governments to develop a national certification standard or norm; and support them to build capacities for national governments and technical teams in charge of implementing the seal. They will also help governments develop a pool of advisors and auditors, and support them to select companies to participate.
The 5th Responsible Business Forum brings together business leaders, governments, academics, labor associations and civil society to share best practices for reducing gender gaps in the workplace and to celebrate the role of the business sector in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The Gender Equality Seal Certification Programme is designed to assist companies in 6 areas:
1. Women in decision-making positions. Practical experiences and lessons learnt from companies on how to increase women in decision-making posts, strategies for career development and mentorships and establishing gender equality goals to correct imbalances in decision-making positions.
2. Detecting and eliminating gender-based pay gaps. Review of practical examples in identifying and solving wage gaps between men and women.
3. Policies to improve work-life balance. Experiences in promoting flexi-time, tele-commuting, paternity leave and other policies allowing men and women to more fairly and efficiently balance their work and family responsibilities.
4. Women in all company sectors. Experiences regarding the insertion of women into occupational areas that are traditionally male-dominated.
5. Inclusive and nonsexist communication inside and outside the company.
6. Promoting zero tolerance to sexual harassment in the work-place.