UN Women hosts a Women's Empowerment Principles Workshop for Korea at The Plaza Seoul on 20 April. Photo: UN Women
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Seoul, Republic of Korea — Almost 60 -private representatives attended Korea’s first workshop on the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), hosted by the UN Women Centre of Excellence for Gender Equality in the Republic of Korea on 20 April 2023.
“The Centre aims to help and communicate with companies' efforts to promote gender equality, starting with this event,” said its Director Jeongshim Lee. The WEPs Workshop for Korea was held in partnership with the UN Global Compact Network Korea at The Plaza Hotel, Seoul.
Established by UN Women and UN Global Compact, the WEPs are a set of principles offering guidance to businesses on how to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace, marketplace, and community.
The first session of the workshop featured Anna Fälth, global head, WEPs Secretariat at UN Women HQ. Anna stated, “We welcome Korean companies to the global WEPs network of nearly 8,000 signatories. To be a leader in today's global market, gender equality needs to be at the core of business models. It is what stakeholders - investors, business partners, talent, consumers - expect from companies.”
Jeongshim Lee, Director, UN Women Centre of Excellence for Gender Equality in the Republic of Korea. Photo: UN Women
As the main presenter, Mihwa Park, WEPs Coordinator, WEPs Global Secretariat at UN Women headquarters, explained the seven principles of the WEPs and how to use them. Ms. Park noted that ESG has been perceived as without gender components in the country, and urged companies to start treating gender equality as one of the main components of ESG by showing participants how WEPs could provide guidelines.
The second session featured speakers from leading global companies in finance, food, consulting, and telecommunications sector, namely: GSMA, Mastercard, Nestle, and RSM International. The speakers shared their experiences and lessons learned in adopting and implementing the WEPs in practice.
The WEPs are informed by international labour and human rights standards and grounded in the recognition that businesses have a stake in, and responsibility for, gender equality and women’s empowerment. They are a primary vehicle for corporate delivery on the gender-equality dimensions of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN’s 2030 Agenda. By joining the WEP community, the chief executives signalled their commitment to this agenda at the highest levels of their respective companies, and to working collaboratively in multistakeholder networks to foster business practices that empower women. These include equal pay for work of equal value, gender-responsive supply chain practices, and zero tolerance of sexual harassment in the workplace.
"We believe that companies can take the lead in achieving gender equality through innovation, employment, and finance,” the Centre’s Director Lee said. “Such efforts will not only benefit women and men who work for companies, families, and communities but also the social responsibility and financial performance of companies."
Yeon-chul Yoo, Secretary-General of the United Nations Global Compact Network Korea, stated that “I hope that this event today will be a signal to raise awareness of the importance of gender equality and diversity and inclusion within companies and that it will be an opportunity to create substantial change by leading active sharing and discussion." He also said, "The UN Global Compact and the UN Women's Centre for Gender Equality will continue to work together to strengthen women's capacities and strive towards the goal of reducing gender disparities and achieving gender equality.”
Photo: UN Women
The seven principles of WEPs are: establish high-level corporate leadership; treat all women and men fairly at work; ensure the health, safety, and well-being; 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.
As of April 2023, nearly 8,000 companies from more than 150 countries have signed and adopted the WEPs. In Korea, as environmental, social, and governance (ESG) is becoming a critical management concern in the business sector, almost 50 companies have joined the WEPs initiative so far.
UN Women Centre of Excellence for Gender Equality was established in 2022 with support from the Government of Korea. It undertakes training, research, and external relations activities on several themes such as ending violence against women, women’s economic empowerment and leadership, development cooperation and gender, and the field of women, peace, and security.