Last updated: Friday, March 22, 2019


Empowering Women to Advance Gender Equality

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Women tend to engage in the informal economy and low-income, vulnerable industries, do part-time jobs or completely leave the labour force. In the private sector, they are less likely to be promoted and tend to lag behind in career development. In this context, the Women's Empowerment Principles (WEP), introduced by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the UN Global Compact, is an opportunity to reduce current gender gaps by raising the awareness of enterprises and integrating gender into business administration.

At the recent “Equality Means Business” Forum held by the UN Women in cooperation with Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs Council (VWEC), Ms Nguyen Thi Tuyet Minh, Chairwoman of VWEC under the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), said that promoting equal opportunity for male and female employees in enterprises will help boost the strengths and innovations of both sexes, increase labour productivity, and enhance corporate reputation, competitiveness and sustainability.

In particular, enhancing women’s capacity, fostering women's participation at all levels and stages will help enterprises better identify customer needs, cut costs, and improve labour productivity, competitiveness and sustainable development. With the message “Equality is prosperity” since 2012, VWEC, VCCI and UN Women launched an initiative to assist businesses in applying the UN WEPs to advance gender equality in the workplace. WEP is a good tool for businesses to achieve the above factors.

According to experts, enabling women to fully engage in the economy is essential to building a strong economy, establishing a more stable and equitable society. A report in 2015 by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) shows that in a full potential scenario in which women play an identical role in labour markets to that of men, as much as US$28 trillion could be added to global annual gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025. Current studies also show that gender diversity helps businesses to work better, showing that personal and public interests can go hand in hand.

In Vietnam, women make up 48 per cent of the workforce. However, there are still many barriers to women's equal participation and access to economic opportunities. For example, women are often responsible for unpaid care work, work with inflexible time, witness gender gaps in income and lack social protection and health insurance.

According to a 2017 study by Deloitte, based on a limited number of samples, Vietnamese companies have less than 18 per cent of women in executive bodies and only 7 per cent of companies are led by female CEOs. To date, nearly 2,000 companies have pledged to support these principles globally, including 34 from Vietnam.

Madam Elisa Fernandez Saenz, Head of the UN Women Office in Vietnam, said, many distances exist between men and women in Vietnam. For example, women are paid less than men for the same job. The former is rejected in 77 occupations in accordance with the Labour Code. In addition, they suffer sexual harassments, bear heavy working burdens and take care of their family three times more than men. Moreover, the gender gap in women-run enterprises is 21 - 31 per cent. Women mainly run small and micro enterprises and only one per cent of women operate large enterprises. Women are not present in many businesses, especially in leadership.

According to Sue Nguyen, an officer at the UN Women Programme, there are seven Women's Empowerment Principles: Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality; Treat all women and men fairly at work - respect and support human rights and non-discrimination; 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; and Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality.

Elisa Fernandez Saenz said that allowing women to work is investment. Empowering women is a smart strategy. In fact, enterprises with female participation at senior levels usually grow very well.

Quynh Chi

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