United Nations, New York Headquarters, 4 March 2014
Women’s Empowerment and equality has been an initiative at the United Nations since the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), in 1979. Since then, many efforts have been made, but women are still at a much greater disadvantage to education, work, independence, and positions of power, just to name a few. The meeting held at the start of the 3 weeks focused on women’s empowerment was about how to take steps in the private sector to invest in women as entrepreneurs. Many different speakers shared insight from their experience and industries, a call for responsibility and action on all fronts was echoed into the afternoon.
Carolyn Buck Luce, the days moderator, explained the shifts currently taking place, lending a hand to women’s empowerment, and gender balance. “Executives are realizing that it’s up to us, there is a tipping point emerging where companies will need to embrace a longer term view and embrace the possibility that they could be a unique engine for sustainability and equality in the world.” Ambassador Melanne Verveer followed with the understanding that women invest their earned money back into the family, only enhancing the family unit and the success those children experience. “Women may be victimized,” said the ambassador, “but are not victims.”
In Africa, 43% less women than men have access to the internet. She Will Connect, launched by Intel in 2013, puts emphasis on targeted countries to make internet more accessible to women who are completely disconnected. It is initiatives like this in the private sector, among others that become game changers for women everywhere. Another example is The Coca-Cola Company, who started the 5by20 movement, to empower 5 million female entrepreneurs globally by 2020. The majority of women find themselves in the bottom line of companies pyramids. Entrepreneurs and industries have started businesses training and learning programs for women to gain skills and agency in the industry that has exploited them for so long. Erika Karp, the CEO of an investment firm focused on creating sustainable solutions for capitalism, had a compelling moment during the panel. She stated that we must have synergy with all of the issues: climate change, sustainable energy, women’s empowerment, access to water; all of these issues must come together to guide the world because the time for change is right now.
Meeting Title: International Women’s Day 2014: Turning Inspiration into Action: Next Steps for the Private Sector to Empower Women Globally
Key Speakers: Carolyn Buck Luce (Managing Partner-Imaginal Labs), Robert Orr (Assistant Secretary General for Strategic Planning), John McKernan (President-U.S. Chamber of Commerce), Ambassador Melanne Verveer (Executive Director-Institute for Peace), Chelsea Clinton (Vice Chair-Clinton Foundation), Jane Nelson (Director of Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative), Pierre Börjesson (Senior Sustainability Specialist- H&M), Dotti Hatcher (Executive Director- P.A.C.E. Global Initiatives), Diane Melley (V.P. Global Citizenship Initiatives- IBM), Charlotte Oades (Women’s Economic Empowerment- The Coca-Cola Company), Aman Singh (Editorial Director- CSRwire.com), Priya Agrawal (Executive Director- Merk for Mothers), Sharon D’Agostino (V.P. Corporate Citizenship-J&J), Leith Greenslade (Vice-Chair- Office of UN Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals), Rebecca Fries (Director- Value for Women), Dr. Jeff Lundy (Manager-Research- Corporate Citizenship Center- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation), Jeannette Ferran Astorga (V.P. Corporate Social Responsibility, ANN Inc.), Michelle Greene (Head of Corporate Responsibility-NYSE EuroNext), Mary Ellen Iskenderian (President and CEO-Women’s World Banking), Erika Karp (CEO-Cornerstone Capital Group), Kara Valikai (Director-corporate Citizenship Center- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation), Dr. Vishakha Desai (President Emerita), Sahba Sobhani (Acting Programme Manager), Marc DeCourcey (Executive Director- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation)
Written by WIT Representative: Stephanie Harris
“Be globally literate and globally sensitive, the time is truly now!” -Dr. Vishakha Desai