Winners revealed of new UN award for women’s empowerment in business
Bangkok, Thailand – Eighteen outstanding companies and individuals across Asia-Pacific have been awarded a new UN Women prize for gender equality after a four-month long competitive selection process with more than 400 qualifying applications from 17 countries. The winners include top multinational companies and SMEs across industries as well as several financial-services organizations that have pursued exemplary business practices focused on women’s empowerment despite the COVID-19 threat.
“Women like me need to be actively part of building, innovating and leading at the startups that will shape the future,” said Katrina Chan, Executive Director of QBO Innovation Hub in the Philippines, who won the regional award for Youth Leadership.
This first edition of the Asia-Pacific Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) Awards was celebrated on Tuesday in Bangkok. The awards were presented by UN Women through the WeEmpowerAsia project, for which the European Union is a partner and donor. The awards recognize innovations in the private sector that promote women leaders, make working conditions more fair, support equal parenting and caregiving roles, and improve access to finance for women entrepreneurs.
Pirkka Tapiola, Ambassador of the European Union to Thailand, said: “The Women’s Empowerment Principles, which we celebrate today, offer helpful guidance to businesses on how to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace. Today we recognise the leaders who transform their commitments into real impact through workplace policies that directly benefit women at work and in their communities. We hope other companies across Asia and the EU are inspired to follow their example.”
Mohammad Naciri, UN Women Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, applauded the award-winning initiatives that champion gender equality in the business world, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit women and marginalized communities the hardest. “The pandemic has revealed considerable gaps that need to be addressed, thus giving us clearer directions where the gender equality agenda must be pushed forward by business leaders,” he said, joining the awards ceremony virtually from Cairo.
The top regional winners across the six award categories are:
- Leadership Action & Commitment: Durreen Shahnaz, Founder and Chief Executive of Impact Investment Exchange (IIX). In 2009, her company became the world’s first public trading platform for social enterprises with a gender-lens at the core of investment processes, and created the Women’s Livelihood Bond, now in its third, COVID-focused iteration.
- Youth Leadership: Katrina Rausa Chan, Executive Director of QBO Innovation Hub. Her “StartUp Pinay” programme has supported ambitious women outfitted with inspiration, know-how and funding to become tech founders that lead the start-up ecosystem.
- Gender-inclusive Workplace: IKEA India. Since 2014, the company has focused on gender-equal recruitment, equal pay and gender-responsive internal/human resources policies development.
- Gender-responsive Marketplace: Unilever Thailand. The company received top scores for the progressive Hair Talk campaign from their hair care brand Sunsilk. The advertisements addressed discrimination against trans women in Thailand, sparking a nationwide debate.
- Community & Industry Engagement: Coca-Cola Far East Limited Philippines. The company’s global 5by20 programme has supported more than 200,000 women entrepreneurs and micro-retailers in the Philippines since 2011 through trainings and access to capital.
- COVID-19 Action: Kashf Foundation. Pakistani microfinance institution the Kashf Foundation won for its initiative titled Don’t Let Corona Impact Your Business. The programme helps women micro entrepreneurs secure financial and non-financial services to rebuild after the pandemic.
UN Women’s WeEmpowerAsia programme launched the WEPs Awards this year to encourage businesses to take more visible steps to open opportunities for women in the workplace and inspire other businesses to do the same.
“We have to have more women in the workforce for a more equal society,” said Peter Betzel, chief executive officer and chief sustainability officer of Ikea India. “It is non-negotiable for us to have 50/50 gender balance across all levels. Today, more than 60 percent of our senior leaders and close to 48 percent of our co-workers across all units are women.”
Katrina Chan dedicated her award to young women working alongside men to create some of the most helpful technologies, especially during history’s most trying times. “At QBO, we’re working towards ensuring that equal gender representation in tech becomes the norm,” she said.
During the ceremony, UN Women also announced the 12 winning companies from the Malaysia and Thailand national chapters. Emiliawati Binti Zainol of Q3 Management Solutions (Malaysia) and Shannon Kalayanamitr of Gobi Partners (Thailand) won the national trophies for the Leadership Commitment category, while Deloitte (Malaysia) and Benz Talingchan (Thailand) won the Gender-inclusive Workplace titles. Earning the top awards in the Gender-responsive Marketplace category were Vinda Group Southeast Asia (Malaysia) and Unilever (Thailand). Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak (Malaysia) won the Community and Industry Engagement category. The national chapters of the WEPs Awards ceremonies were similarly held in the Philippines, China, Indonesia, Viet Nam and India between November 11 to December 1.
Katja Freiwald, WeEmpowerAsia Regional Programme Manager of UN Women, closed the ceremony commending the award-winning initiatives: “The diversity and caliber of applications received is a strong indication of the increasing business commitment to the WEPs and to empowering women even in times of crisis. We congratulate all the winners and hope we will inspire more companies to take action and apply for next year’s edition of the WEPs Awards.”
The Women’s Empowerment Principles is a joint initiative of UN Women and the UN Global Compact aimed at empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors. Stakeholders from the business world have responded to this global need. The Asia-Pacific alone has a total of over 900 signatories registered; more than 300 companies have signed on this year.
Here is the full list of regional-level WEPs Awards winners:
- Leadership Action & Commitment:
- Winner: Professor Durreen Shahnaz, Founder & CEO, Impact Investment Exchange (IIX), Singapore
- 1st Runner-up: Lucky Chhetri, Chief Executive Director, 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking, Nepal
- 2nd Runner-up: Anil Kariwala, Founder & CEO, Kariwala Industries, India
- Youth Leadership:
- Winner: Katrina Rausa Chan, Executive Director, QBO Innovation Hub, Philippines
- 1st Runner-up: Vania Santoso, Co-Founder heySTARTIC, Artistic EcoFashion, Indonesia
- 2nd Runner-up: Divya Rathod, Founder, SilveryNanos Innovations LLP, India
- Gender-inclusive Workplace:
- Winner: IKEA India
- 1st Runner-up: Deloitte Malaysia
- 2nd Runner-up: Unilever Viet Nam
- Gender-responsive Marketplace:
- Winner: Unilever Thailand
- 1st Runner-up: Sodexo India Services Pvt Ltd
- 2nd Runner-up: GREAT Women, Philippines
- Community & Industry Engagement:
- Winner: Coca-Cola Far East Limited Philippines
- 1st Runner-up: NatWest India
- 2nd Runner-up: Gojek, Indonesia
- COVID-19 Action:
- Winner: Kashf Foundation, Pakistan
- 1st Runner-up: 7.ai, India
- 2nd Runner-up: AGREA Agricultural Systems International, Philippines
Communications Analyst, WeEmpowerAsia
UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
WeEmpowerAsia is a UN Women programme funded by and in partnership with the European Union that seeks to increase the number of women who lead and participate in business in China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. For more information, visit http://weempowerasia.org