Speech by Ambassador of the European Union to China Nicolas Chapuis
Madam Director General Mu Hong, Ms. Aryal, esteemed audience,
This is now the third year that, to my great pleasure, I open the International Conference on Gender and Corporate Social Responsibility in Beijing in partnership with UN Women China. I would like to thank UN Women for this excellent opportunity, which enables the EU to restate its commitment towards women empowerment in the workplace and, more generally, towards gender equality.
Looking back at the past three years, we saw many changes on the front of gender equality, which unfortunately not always showed progress. The disproportionate social and economic impacts the COVID-19 pandemic had on women shed light on the work yet to be accomplished.
At work, it is likely that gender employment gaps leave women more vulnerable than men to job loss, especially in countries where women form a large part of the labour force in the so-called “informal sector”.
This is why it is now crucial to ensure that recovery measures are gender-sensitive and that greater equality is achieved in both paid and unpaid work. Workers in the care sector for example, who are mostly women and proved vital during the pandemic, deserve better working conditions. The COVID-19 crisis should be seen as an opportunity to develop gender-sensitive policies.
In March this year, the European Commission built on this opportunity and presented a “Proposal for a directive to strengthen the application of the principle of equal pay for equal work or work of equal value between men and women through pay transparency and enforcement mechanisms.”
The proposal’s objective is simple: to establish pay transparency standards to empower workers to claim their right to equal pay. This will be done through various means, including establishing pay transparency within organisations and strengthening enforcement mechanisms.
Gender-sensitive policies have proven to be effective: a recent report by the European Institute for Gender Equality published in May this year shows the effectiveness of applying quotas to boost progress on gender balance in politics and business. For example, in terms of political representation, the data shows that 11 Member States have legislative gender quotas for parliamentary elections. These countries have increased the share of women in their parliaments almost three times faster than countries without quotas.
As for women at work, the data takes into consideration legislative quotas on the minimum share of women and men on boards in six EU Member States, namely Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Portugal. In these six countries, the average share of women on boards is 37.6 %. In countries without quotas, the share of women on boards is 24.3 %. In addition, progress is faster in countries with quotas: in the six countries mentioned earlier, the share of women on boards increased by an average of 0.9 percentage point each year before the quota was introduced. This jumped to an average increase of 3.0 percentage point per year after the quota was introduced.
Of course, other stakeholders than policy makers only have a role to play. CEOs of companies must also look at their Business and Human Resources strategies with a gender lens. This is, among other things, what the WeEmpower Asia project does very successfully. This project, implemented by UN Women and funded by the EU, has shown some great results in promoting gender equality in the workplace. More than a hundred companies have now signed the Women Empowerment Principles, or WEPs, and today we will see the best examples of some companies showing their commitment to advance gender equality at work.
Such progressive initiatives must be encouraged by all means and the WEPs Awards ceremony that you will attend today is an excellent example on how to inspire all actors of the private sector to follow the same path.
I hope the discussions today will contribute to this aim and I wish you all a very successful conference.
[Joint Press Release]
– Eleven Chinese businesses were granted Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP) Awards by UN Women China, in partnership with the EU Delegation to China. The award ceremony took place during the 2021 International Conference on Gender Equality and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The WEP Awards celebrate the efforts of private-sector companies in addressing gender inequalities in the new normal of a post COVID-19 world.
The conference discussed the power of businesses to enhance women’s full participation and leadership in economic life, identify key obstacles, explore solutions and share best practices. About 80 participants offline and around 500,000 participants online attended the conference supported by Rockcheck Puji Foundation and China Enterprise Confederation.
Private-sector leaders, entrepreneurs, civil society representatives along with EU and UN officials reviewed progress made in improving gender policies and discussed the future roadmap to integrate gender equality into company policies and external CSR programmes.
At the opening, Smriti Aryal, Head of UN Women China office, addressed that “there is unmissable opportunity to look at building a different economic modal that is supports women’s livelihoods and use the recovery to shape a more sustainable, just and equal world”. She also emphasized the tremendous opportunities to create decent jobs in strategic green sectors and bring women at the centre as well as the importance to build a robust mechanism for small and medium sized enterprises and workers especially in informal sector who are suffering higher level of shocks and vulnerabilities.
Ms. Mu Hong, Director-General of the liaison department of the All-China Women’s Federation, addressed that ““Effective actions taken by companies are needed to economically empower women, to provide equal opportunities for women, and to promote their participation in science and technology innovation, which are not only conducive to stimulating women's potential, but also to achieving more sustainable economic growth.”
Mr. Nicolas Chapuis, Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union to China, reiterated the EU’s commitment towards gender equality and women empowerment in the workplace and pointed out how crucial it is to ensure that pandemic-related recovery measures are gender-sensitive to achieve greater equality in both paid and unpaid work.
In response to the heavy toll COVID-19 has taken on economy, employment and people's life, UN Women also launched the #SheBounceBack coffee table book to showcase role of women as first responders to COVID-19. Six female leaders from all walks of life shared their experience on women’s leadership on accelerating recovery and building resilience in a post COVID-19 world.
The awards presented to the 11 gender champions in China, recognize exemplary business practices for gender equality aligned to UN Women and UN Global Compact’s WEPs. These are a set of seven principles guiding businesses to become more gender-responsive across their value chain. To date, 265 companies in China have pledged action to advance the WEPs, and more than 5,600 globally.
About the co-organisers:
UN Women is a global champion for gender equality. We work to create a world in which every woman and girl can exercise her rights and live up to her full potential. We are trusted partners for advocates and decision-makers from all walks of life, and a leader in the effort to achieve gender equality.
As the only UN entity dedicated entirely to gender equality and women’s empowerment, UN Women has a special role to play in advancing the global development agenda. Our ability to partner with and engage a range of actors across governments, civil society, the private sector, and media, truly sets us apart. Our triple mandate uniquely positions us to:
Delegation of the European Union to China
The European Union is represented in China by the Delegation in Beijing. The Delegation was established in Beijing in October 1988.
The Delegation has full diplomatic privileges and immunities with the Head of Delegation accorded full ambassadorial status. The Delegation is responsible for the conduct of official relations between China and the European Union. In all matters pertaining to the European Union, the Delegation works closely with the diplomatic missions of the EU Member States. The Delegation is a natural point of contact between the EU and the Chinese authorities as well as others in China.