26 November 2019, Beijing – Organised by UN Women China, in partnership with the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to China and the Embassy of Sweden in China, the 2019 International Conference on Gender Equality and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) concluded in Beijing today, noting progress made and actions required to address gender barriers in the private sector.
Highlighting the critical role of CSR programmes in advancing equality in our workplaces and societies, delegates explored core challenges and opportunities of gender mainstreaming in companies as well as innovative approaches to promote women’s leadership, decent work and digital inclusion.
Attended by nearly 250 private sector leaders, social entrepreneurs, civil society representatives along with EU and UN officials, the conference took place ahead of the Asia-Pacific Regional Review of the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Beijing+25 Review), to be held at the UN Conference Centre, Bangkok from 27-29 November 2019.
Despite recent progress in advancing gender equality globally, the World Economic Forum estimates that the economic opportunity gender gap remains the dimension that will require the longest time to close completely — in 202 years. Research from McKinsey Global Institute also shows that failure to achieve gender equality could cost China up to USD 2.6 trillion by 2025. While the enormous opportunities presented by China’s rapid economic growth are clear, some women in the country still face various challenges and discrimination in the workplace, marketplace and the community.
At the opening, Smriti Aryal, Head of UN Women China office called on all participants to take stock of progress on gender equality and renew their commitment to a fair, safe and equitable workplace where all women can succeed. She mentioned, “UN Women supports a stronger commitment for partnership and cooperation from the private sector to make a tangible inter-generational impact for improving the lives of women and girls”.
Ms.H.E. Helena Sångeland, Ambassador of Sweden to China, emphasized that Sweden’s overarching principle for gender equality is that everyone, regardless of gender, has the right to work and support themselves, to balance career and family life, and to live without the fear of abuse or violence. She underlined that the business case of gender equality is very compelling, not only to business as such, but also for the whole society, and said, “there is a great untapped potential to harness corporate resources for gender equality, and social sustainability in general.”
Mr. Tim Harrington, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation to China, reminded the audience about the European Union’s longstanding commitment towards gender equality as well as Corporate Social Responsibility promotion. This commitment is reflected, for example, by the progress made in the appointment of women as middle and senior managers in the European Commission as well as by the European Commission's trade policy's "commitment to identify opportunities for responsible supply chain partnerships", as stated by Mr. Harrington.
Ms. Zhao Hongju, Vice Director-General of the Liaison Department, All-China Women’s Federation, mentioned: “Chinese women’s cause is facing unprecedented historical opportunities, and the vast number of Chinese women will certainly be able to make great contributions in this great process”.
The conference was also the occasion for the EU and UN Women to kick off the WeEmpowerAsia programme in China. The regional programme aims to increase the number of women who lead, participate in and have to access business opportunities and leadership in the private sector to advance inclusive and sustainable growth in Asia, while contributing to more gender-equal trade opportunities between Asia and Europe.
For private sector companies, a first step to realising the commitment to responsible business conduct can be done through the signature of the Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs), a set of guidelines on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. Reiterating their commitment to these principles, Ms. Guan Yue, HeForShe Advocate and CEO of Tongyue Mingxin Cultural Media Co. Ltd. shared her WEPs journey as a representative of the WEPs signatory at the conference. To date, 41 companies in China have pledged action to advance the WEPs, and more than 2,700 companies have done so globally. An international network of like-minded companies, the WEPs platform connects businesses of all sizes across multiple industries, ranging from multinational corporations such as Alcatel-Lucent, IKEA, Microsoft and Unilever, to enterprises at the local level such as Zhilian Zhaopin, among many others—as signatories.
About the co-organisers:
UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide. Working in China since 1998, UN Women provides technical and financial assistance to innovative programmes and strategies for gender equality and women's empowerment. UN Women’s China Office in Beijing supports and carries out work on (i) enhancing women's economic empowerment; (ii) providing support for advancing normative agenda on gender equality and women’s empowerment, particularly to address gender based violence and discrimination; and (iii) ) innovative partnerships to address gender issues in China and bring good practices from China to other countries globally. In addition to the above, UN Women also actively participates and contributes to various UN inter-agency processes and collaborates with UN organizations around specific programme areas.
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.
The Embassy of Sweden in China
Sweden and China share a long history of cooperation. Sino-Swedish exchange is growing and incorporates a broad range of issues such as an open and constructive political dialogue on international issues and human rights.
Trade promotion is an important task for the Embassy, as well as press- and culture issues and migration- and consular services.
The Embassy's sphere of responsibility includes Mongolia. The Ambassador is also accredited to Ulaanbaatar.
Communication Analyst, UN Women China