Women’s Month and empowerment principles

To culminate Women’s Month, a signing event of the UN Women Empowerment Principles (WEPs) was held at the end of March. The UN WEPs is a roadmap to business sustainability and growth. It is a framework of seven principles that provide guidance for companies to promote transformative change towards gender equality and women empowerment in the workplace, marketplace, and community. These principles will guide companies in evaluating and assessing their policies, projects, and practices, and in identifying areas for improvement.

Women Business Council Philippines Chairperson Monette Hamlin said women, even if they are leaders in their companies, also hold multiple roles such as mother, wife, daughter, sister, or caregiver, among others, usually unpaid or non-monetized.  The UN Women estimates the value of such roles to be over a total of 16.4 billion hours spent on unpaid work daily, roughly equal to 2 billion people working 8 hours a day without pay, at 9% of the global gross domestic product or $11 trillion.  She said women’s unpaid care work at home can be put to good use and can add to the economy if the burden is lifted from women and shared equally by men, noting that it is in the home that values formation and respect for women is first developed. It is also in the home where the next generation of women leaders are developed.

Currently, the Philippines ranks first globally in terms of women leadership positions, with about 48% of senior positions in companies held by women.

Katja Friewald, Regional Programme Manager for We Empower Asia from the UN Women, said the event is not just about signing a commitment document, but is also about making a strong call to action to all business leaders to start their rebuilding and recovery from the pandemic with the women and girl children in mind.  More than 40 million women and girls have fallen into poverty across the world amid the pandemic, and the business community has a huge role to help work against this. She emphasized the important role of the business leaders in facilitating the integration of gender equality and women empowerment in their  organizations’ DNA, including it in companies’ business operations. Signing the WEPs is just the first step for companies to do this — by being part of a global community that works together towards a common agenda which is to advance gender equality and women empowerment in the country.

The UN Women will continue to provide the necessary support in terms of capacity building and activities to the members of the WEPs community to sustain and heighten the momentum of the gender equality efforts in the Philippines. The UN Women will also soon launch an innovative program called Care Entrepreneurship Accelerator to help women entrepreneurs who are developing solutions to address the unpaid care work issue of women, which holds back many of them from active participation in the economy.

Rosalyn Mesinas, Philippines Programme Manager of UN Women, introduced the seven WEPs including the corresponding success indicators:

– Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality.

– Treat all women and men fairly at work. Respect and support human rights and nondiscrimination.

– Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers.

– Promote education, training and professional development for women.

– Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women.

– Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy.

– Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality.

Companies may adopt all or select a few specific principles and indicators that they would want to focus and report on. She said promoting and integrating WEPs is a winning situation for a company, as it does not only promote women’s rights as human rights and ensure the sustainability of the business, but it also enables the company to directly contribute to the UN Sustainability Development Goal No. 5 on Gender Equality. Moreover, advancing women’s empowerment drives economic growth and supports business performance and resilience through innovation, cost savings and productivity, market growth, and trust and credibility between and among employees, consumers, and other stakeholders

As of March, over 4,000 companies in 141 countries have signed and committed to implementing the WEPs. In the Philippines alone, a total of 70 individual companies and member companies of Women Business Council Philippines and the Filipina CEO Circle joined the WEPs global community; PNB is the only local universal bank that participated in the WEPs signing.

FCC President Sharon Dayoan and Chairman Cristina Concepcion together with WomenBizPH President Mylene Abiva also enjoined all women leaders to promote women empowerment and gender equality.

Equality means business!


Flor Gozon Tarriela is chairman of the Philippine National Bank, PNB Capital and PNB Mizuho Leasing & Finance Corporation. She is a former Undersecretary of Finance and the first Filipina vice-president of Citibank N.A. She is a trustee of FINEX and an Institute of Corporate Directors fellow.