The UNDP Gender Equality Seal Certification Programme for Public and Private Enterprises: A Catalyst for Change. Presentation to business leaders from the Asia-Pacific region

Nov 30, 2016

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, it is a real pleasure to be here.

In this past couple of days, we have learned much about what businesses can do to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

I trust you are as excited as I am about the many endeavors being undertaken to help improve our world.

Today, I want to tell you about one of those important and innovative initiatives. An initiative that will help us in our mission to make the world a better place. It is the Gender Equality Seal Certification Programme for Public and Private Enterprises.

It addresses an issue close to my heart: Gender Equality.

Especially gender equality in the workplace.

I know what it’s like to be treated differently. Especially at work because of your gender. As an actress, I fought against those who wanted to stereotype me as a weak Asian woman. They wanted to cast me as a woman in need of protection. I challenged that stereotype.

Now, I am famous for doing my own stunts in action movies, fighting evil alongside men, and protecting myself.

I have played a part in changing the system by challenging stereotypes and discrimination.

I refused to be typecast only as someone who was weak, fragile, and emotional.

That commitment to change the status quo has brought me here today, as the UNDP Goodwill Ambassador.

Every day, in countless ways, women around the world face discrimination and inequality. Little girls see their brothers go to school while they are made to stay at home and cook.   They are denied the same opportunities as boys. Women receive less money for the same work done by a man.

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 If we do not capture the energy and creativity of women we cannot achieve the full potential of our economies and societies.

Your participation in this Forum is a sign of commitment to take action through your businesses in changing the prevailing situation. A commitment to ensure women have equal opportunities.

This Forum is about Sustainable Development, of course. So let me delve deeper into why gender equality is a critical issue.

True sustainable development cannot occur if everyone is not participating.

On average, women in Asia are less likely than men to be in the labor force[1]. 70% less likely, in fact.

There are many women out there who want to work -- and are not able to. Among the small numbers of women in South Asia who do work, only 15% of them are wage and salaried workers.

And those that have jobs earn less money than men who do the same work. Asia is no exception. Globally women earn 23 per cent less than men.

This inequality affects every level of the workplace.

In our region, around 11 per cent of companies have no women in senior management.

And 26 per cent have no women at all on their boards. Not a single one.[2]

These companies are clearly missing out on adding value to their business.

So women must have the equal right and opportunity as men to pursue their dreams.

It is not only an issue of doing the right thing, which it is. But it’s also the smart thing to do.  According to a UN report, limits on women’s participation in the workforce across the Asia-Pacific region cost the regional economy about US$89 billion every year.[3]

Today we know, companies with the highest representation of women board directors achieve higher financial performance.[4].

And this is where you come in.

By prioritizing gender equality as a critical talent and moral imperative, you will not only benefit millions of women, but also have a profound impact on the growth of your countries.

To put it simply, everyone wins. 

This is where UNDP’s initiative comes in.

UNDP is dedicated to empowering people and nations. 

 It knows that to advance gender equality it is critical to work with the private sector and governments to close gender gaps in the workplace.

We all have a part to play.

I am excited to introduce the Gender Equality Seal Certification Programme for Private and Public Enterprises.

This programme supported by UNDP, is designed especially for public and private companies to reduce gender gaps, and promote equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace.

This Certification Programme is a concrete tool we can use to move forward Sustainable Development Goal 5 Gender Equality.

Let me tell you a little more about it.

This Certification Programme was launched in Latin America in 2010. Since its launch, more than 400 companies in 12 countries in that region have been certified, for meeting high standards for gender equality in the workplace.

Companies have been recognized for eliminating gender pay gaps; for increasing women’s roles in decision making at all levels; implementing work-life balance policies, such as family and parental leave; for addressing sexual harassment at work and recognizing, hiring and advancing women in non-traditional fields, such as in cement work and mining.

Today, the Gender Equality Seal is a best practice and is recognized as a global symbol of gender equality in the work place. 

Not surprisingly, participating companies in Latin America have found that providing opportunities and equal treatment for female employees is also good for the bottom line.

By establishing environments where women’s contributions are valued, companies have cited benefits such as greater efficiency and staff performance, increased employee commitment to the company, and improved recruitment – not to mention an enhanced public image.

UNDP plans to expand this support globally, and will implement the Certification Programme in Asia-Pacific in 2017.

This is a tremendous opportunity for our region. A region where more than 80 percent of women are employed in vulnerable jobs that lack the protection of labor laws[5].

We have the tool, now we need the highest levels of governmental engagement, and a vibrant and committed business community. 

I know, there is much to do.

That is why the SDGs were developed by the global community.

That is why UNDP created this Programme.

That is why this Responsible Business Forum is so important – and why your work, and your commitment, is so essential.

By making gender equality central to business practices, you can be a driver of progress that benefits all.

So I urge you to join the Gender Equality Certification Programme when it is launched in 2017, and make a commitment to being a better company. 

Together we can make a better world. Better for all of us.

To tell you the story about this programme, I want to introduce Raquel Lagunas, UNDP’s Advisor on gender mainstreaming, but before that, let’s first watch a video about the Gender Equality Seal Programme.



[1] Asia Development Bank; Women In The Workforce An Unmet Potential In Asia And The Pacific.



[2] ILO, Women in business and management: Gaining momentum in Asia and the Pacific



[3] Source: Progress of World’s Women: Access to Justice, 2011-12, UN Women



[4] Companies With More Women Board Directors Experience Higher Financial Performance, According to Latest Catalyst Bottom Line Report, Catalyst.



[5] Source: Progress of World’s Women: Access to Justice, 2011-12, UN Women



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