A path towards integrated and inclusive governance
The lowest representation of women on boards of directors is found in Central and South America, and in Asia, according to the result of a survey conducted in 2015 by the Women Corporate Directors Foundation that analyzed 4,000 women and men who are directors in companies based in 60 countries
The countries have voluntary initiatives; they have established goals, in addition to quotas required by law, to promote gender equality. Securities market institutions publish codes of governance that require the public be informed of the composition of the board of directors by gender, and in the event that diversity objectives have not been achieved the the reasons for it. Information related to gender equality is being included among environmental, social and governance (ESG) data that are analyzed by investors as part of their investment and risk analysis. Various studies indicate that equality has an impact on results, whether in terms of creating value for shareholders, retention of talent or innovation.
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A path towards integrated and inclusive governance
During the last ten years, all these initiatives and trends have generated an increase in the number of women in leadership positions and in their participation in different governance bodies within a company. However, the incorporation of a single woman (or more than one, but without this implying a real participation) has not been enough to reap the benefits offered by gender equality.
To achieve a true impact on the economy, on people and communities, companies – large market players and drivers of change – have a long way to go in order to embrace the key role they are called upon to play in compliance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 5 (Gender equality), SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth) and SDG 10 (Reduction of inequalities).
They need to become aware of the importance of developing a culture of inclusion and equality with a gender perspective at all levels, and how this cultural change coincides with the progress proposed by the SDGs. According to a report from the International Labor Organization (ILO), gender equality is the nexus of all the interconnected and interdependent SDGs, since decent work for all women contributes not only to alleviating poverty but also to achieving education, peace and security.
The sole commitment of senior management is not enough, since, in order to generate culture, this commitment must be present in the leaders, middle managers and staff of the entire company, as well as in suppliers and throughout the value chain, and in the corporate community as a whole, since it is in the day-to-day and behind each action that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development effectively materializes.
Gender equality is included in various international standards, conventions, declarations and principles, such as those detailed in the table below, which shows the evolution of women’s human rights and their acceptance by international organizations. This shows that gender equality is at the center of human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in international human rights regulations, in order to improve the lives of women by giving visibility and legal enforceability of their rights.
The legal standards contained in these international instruments undoubtedly serve as the basis for companies to establish, strengthen and legitimize their actions related gender equality. They serve as a guide for companies to align and base their businesses on these standards.
“International instruments and frameworks, along with national laws, are crucial to the realization of gender equality at work and the economic empowerment of women, but alone they cannot address all the gaps that contribute to inequality. No legislative solution could work without meaningful and proactive action from the social partners and, in particular, from employers in the public and private sectors. Correcting gender inequalities is an end in itself, but also a fundamental means to achieve broader economic growth and social justice.”
Achieving gender equality is essential for sustainable, fair and equitable development. In this regard, the resolution approving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development expressly states: “The achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will decisively contribute to progress regarding all objectives and goals. It is not possible to realize the full human potential and achieve sustainable development if half of humanity continues to be denied the full enjoyment of its human rights and opportunities”. And even more, it highlights that: “The systematic incorporation of a gender perspective in the implementation of the Agenda is crucial.”
International standards, declarations and principles on gender equality:
Women’s human rights
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979)
- Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (1993)
- Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women [Belém do Pará Convention] (1994)
- United Nations Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995).
- Gender Equality Policy (2010)
- Sustainable Development Goals: SDG 5.
- United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (2011)
ILO Conventions and Recommendations:
- C111 – Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention (1958)
- C100 – Equal Remuneration Convention (1951)
- C156 – Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention (1981)
- R165 – Workers with Family Responsibilities Recommendation (1981)
- C183 – Maternity Protection Convention (2000)
- C190 – Violence and Harassment Convention (2019)
Integrated and inclusive governance
Governance in a company fulfills vital functions -both in its internal and external sphere- for the creation of sustainable value, and this includes that it achieves gender equality in a comprehensive manner in all its areas and levels. Therefore, this first tool on integrated and inclusive governance aims to:
- Understand the fundamental and strategic role of governance, in the guidance and operation of a company.
- Know how the new global demands and trends in sustainable development impact on the governance of companies, causing it to evolve towards a capitalism of interest groups, which requires to incorporate the environmental, social and governance factors (ESG) in management and decision-making.
- The role of governance in incorporating the gender perspective.
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