This page presents all relevant good practice case studies that showcase how business have addressed the Gender equality dilemma. Case studies have been developed in close collaboration with a range of multi-national companies and relevant government, inter-governmental and civil society stakeholders. We also draw on public domain sources, including the UN Global Compact's own published Communications on Progress through which signatories are required to report on their performance against the Ten Principles.
The case studies explore the specific dilemmas and challenges faced by each organisation, good practice actions they have taken to resolve them and the results of such action. We reference challenges as well as achievements and invite you to submit commentary and suggestions through the Forum.
Timberland: Addressing wider abuses against women - Bangladesh
Standard Chartered: Empowering women in the workplace and market - Global
Cisco Systems: Gender discrimination issues - Global
MAS Holdings: Promoting female empowerment - India, Sri Lanka
Nike Foundation: Promoting the economic prosperity of girls - Ethiopia, Kenya, Bangladesh, Liberia, India
HSBC: Supporting women’s development - Global
Coca-Cola: Empowering 5 million women in its global value chain - Global
Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative aims to develop 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020. The programme, first developed in 2010, focuses on enabling the economic empowerment of women across the company’s global value chain. By working with local NGOs, governments and businesses, Coca-Cola – the world’s largest beverage maker – works to break down social and economic barriers which hinder women’s success in business. The company provides women with business skills training, access to financial assets and services, and linkages to networks of peers and mentors. Female beneficiaries include: producers, suppliers, distributors, recyclers, retailers and artisans.= The programme has so far reached four “lead countries” – Brazil, India, the Philippines and South Africa – and is now being developed in China, Mexico, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Haiti and Egypt. In the years ahead, Coca-Cola says that it expects “to reach every region of the globe as the program grows exponentially.”
GE Foundation: Promoting the education of girls in Africa – Africa
In 2009 the GE Foundation initiated the Girls Education in Africa project to provide support to organisations that work to improve access and quality of primary education for girls. The program focuses on improving skills such as maths and languages, as well as educating students in life skills, hygiene and HIV/AIDS prevention. The Girls Education in Africa program aims to address the Millennium Development Goals relating to the achievement of universal primary education and the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women.
Gap: Empowering young female garment workers – Global
International clothes and accessories retailer Gap, in partnership with the International Centre for Research on Women, has launched the P.A.C.E. (Personal Advancement, Career Enhancement) programme. This aims to empower and build the education, life and workplace skills of young female garment workers in the developing world, offer education in critical areas such as health care and legal rights, and provide leadership and job training to facilitate women moving into management positions.
In order to assess the benefits of the programme, Gap commissioned a study in 2012 that aggregated data on female workers at five garment factories: three in India; one in Cambodia; and one in Vietnam. Women were asked to provide feedback on a range of areas related to their wellbeing and productivity at work, such as the quality and quantity of their output, and their personal control over finances and travel. The study found significant improvements in all areas, when compared to a pre-2006 baseline.
Goldman Sachs: Educating women in business – Global
In 2008, Goldman Sachs Group, a global investment banking firm, founded the 10,000 Women programme. 10,000 Women aims to provide educational opportunities in business and management to women, mostly from developing countries, through the creation of partnerships with women’s development organisations. Courses include marketing, accounting and strategic planning. The company has already set up partnerships to help women in Afghanistan, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Kenya, Liberia, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa and Turkey.
An independent report of the programme, produced in 2014, found that by 18 months of graduating 69% of participants had increased their revenues, 58% had been able to create new jobs at their businesses, and that 90% of participants were involved in mentoring other women.
Unilever: Empowering women in local communities – Sri Lanka
Unilever, a consumer goods corporation, runs a partnership in rural areas of Sri Lanka which aims to empower women in their communities – raising their standards of living and those of their families. The Saubhagya project provides women with sustainable sources of income through selling Unilever brands in their own villages, while providing a new sales outlet for Unilever’s products. Unilever says that the project also aims to implement Principle 6 of the UN Global Compact, which is “the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation”. According to Unilever, women’s lives have changed significantly since the project began, bringing them greater self-esteem, a sense of empowerment and an enhanced place in society.
Newmont Mining: Addressing teenage pregnancies and domestic violence – Ghana
Newmont Mining Corporation, a multinational corporation primarily producing gold, has created a gender team as part of an effort to engage with local communities in relation to the Akyem mine north of Accra in Ghana. Following a study commissioned to look at gender within the scope of the project, the company identified a number of challenges which it is addressing through discussions with community members. These include alcohol consumption, teenage pregnancies, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS and prostitution.
Liz Claiborne Inc.: Assisting employees who are victims of domestic violence – US
Liz Claiborne Inc. has developed policies and procedures to make the workplace safe for employees who suffer from domestic violence. The company has created an Employee Assistance Program in the United States to assist employees who suffer from domestic violence. Internal policies and procedures that promote the safety of employees include providing secure work areas; escorts to and from transportation; guidance with legal processes; and a 24-hour helpline to provide counselling to employees.
AstraZeneca: Creating flexible work options for employees – US
AstraZeneca, a multinational healthcare company, has created flexible work arrangements for employees at its Delaware office, enabling mothers to work from home. Around 90% of its field sales staff reportedly work from home, have flexi-time or compress their work schedules. In addition, AstraZeneca Delaware subsidises day care and provides small peer-mentoring groups to offer support, build leadership skills and discuss business solutions. In September 2014, the company was named among “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers”.
CH2M HILL: Providing opportunities for advancement to women – Global
CH2M HILL, a US-based global engineering and construction firm, has implemented an initiative to accelerate women’s advancement called ‘Constructing Pathways for Women Through Inclusion’. Since the initiative’s launch in 2003, the company has sought to counter the traditionally male-dominated nature of the industry through a variety of measures, including: regional women’s networks; mentoring opportunities; women’s leadership summits; informal mentoring and networking opportunities; and targeted recruiting of women into the firm. The company ensures that women are placed in important positions, are visible role models and are responsible for high-profile projects, linking their expertise to business success.
Tata Steel: Monitoring women's issues within the company - India **
Tata Steel, an India-based multinational steel manufacturer, has created a ‘Women Empowerment Cell’, comprising members of management and junior staff, including unionised female employees. Their role is to monitor women’s issues within the company and organise needs-based training for female employees. Tata says that the programme targets “under-privileged” female employees for this training, with the aim to promote their empowerment in the workplace.
The company has also established a Complaint Redressal Committee, which deals with complaints of sexual harassment and provides mechanisms to address grievances.
Newmont Mining: Promoting women's empowerment in the workplace - Ghana
Newmont Ghana, a subsidiary of US-based Newmont Mining Corporation, has developed a ‘gender mainstreaming’ programme at its Ahafo mine in the Brong-Ahafo region. A 75-member Women’s Consultative Committee (WCC) works to ensure that women employees assume greater responsibility within the workforce, as well as within their local communities.
The programme has also led to the WCC setting up a business development fund to support women within the community who want to set up a business. The WCC’s fund identifies and strengthens female suppliers, creates partnership with NGOs in local agricultural programmes (where 50% of farmers are female), and targets women for non-traditional areas of the Ahafo mining operation, such as metallurgy and engineering.
Newmont says that the programme is aimed “to empower and encourage women in our local communities to be a cardinal pat of decision making at all levels, so that we can collectively carry out the much needed socio-economic development of our communities”.
Orange: Empowering women at all career stages - Global
Orange, a France-based telecommunications corporation, has developed a Women Intercultural Leadership Development (WILD) programme. The aim of the programme is to increase the percentage of women in senior management positions at the company – with a target of 35% to be achieved by 2015. The programme focuses on helping female employees to develop their skills across 32 countries of operation. Training is tailored to the specific context of the country in which the women are based. For instance, in countries with active female networks, Orange provides training to further develop women’s skills and potential to enable them to participate in senior level positions. In countries with a significant number of female engineers and technicians, training is focused on helping them reach the top management positions.
Pax World Investment: Empowering women through investing in a mutual fund - Global
Pax World Management, a US-based investment management company, actively promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment through its Global Women’s Equality Fund (GWEF). The GWEF is the only mutual fund in the US that specifically invests in companies which have taken progressive steps to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. When deciding on which companies to target for investment, Pax World assesses the diversity of their boards and management teams. It also analyses their policies and programmes that promote gender equality, as well as transparency and accountability around how the company is achieving its gender goals.
According to Pax World, as of 30 September 2013, 83% of holdings in the GWEF had two or more women on their boards of directors. Pax World also works to encourage companies to adopt the Women’s Empowerment Principles, a joint collaboration between the UN Global Compact and the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
Women Empowerment Principles
MTN: Kindergarten provision to help women obtain employment/access in the workplace – Afghanistan
In 2012, South African mobile phone operator MTN established through its subsidiary MTN Afghanistan a kindergarten facility for its employees. This was in recognition of that fact that Afghan women often face significant cultural and practical challenges when seeking employment – including a lack of childcare facilities. The company also envisages that provision of the kindergarten facility (as well as professional carers) will support a “diversity problem” within MTN Afghanistan – and improve the ‘employee value proposition’ of their female workers.
The company reported in 2013 that all MTN Afghanistan employees (both men and women) had welcomed the initiative and all eligible female employees had enrolled their children. It also noted that annual group culture auditing showed increased levels of satisfaction amongst female employees at MTN Afghanistan – rising from 67% in 2011 to 72% in 2012 – which the company attributed to the provision of the kindergarten facility.
Wal-Mart: Training to empower women in factories – India, Bangladesh, China, Central America
In 2012, Walmart launched – in collaboration with participating local NGOs – a five-year Women in Factories programme – aimed at empowering 60,000 women working in factories that supply the US-based retail giant. The programme is focused on teaching “critical life skills related to communication, hygiene, reproductive health, occupational health and safety, identifying personal strengths and gender sensitivity”. Wal-Mart says that 150 factories in India, Bangladesh, China and Central America will be recipients of the programme.
The Women in Factories initiative will also deliver leadership training to up to 8,000 women to assist both their personal and career development. For example, recipients will undergo holistic training which is designed to empower women not only at work, but also in their homes and communities. In addition, participating suppliers and factory managers are being taught how to sustain and replicate the programme independently.
Mars: Ensuring existing development efforts empower women in cocoa growing communities – Global, Cote d’Ivoire
In 2013, US-based global confectioner Mars announced that it had reached an agreement with Oxfam America for a ‘plan of action’ to empower women in cocoa farming communities. This includes a set of short-, medium- and long-term actions that “will help the industry evaluate and strengthen their current programs to ensure that women are able to both fully contribute to and benefit from development programs in cocoa”. Key elements include:
- Assessing the condition of women cocoa farmers in its existing Vision for Change development programme in Cote d’Ivoire
- Developing a plan of action based on the assessment – to ensure that Vision for Change addresses gender equality
- Fulfilling commitments as a signatory of the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles
- Developing a foundation for a sector-wide assessment on gender equality through the analysis of third-party data and the identification of knowledge gaps
- Establishing draft gender equality indicators aligned with Vision for Change – and that can be used across the sector
- Advocating and supporting a sector-level review of gender equality (through relevant sector bodies) – followed by a sector-level plan of action to address identified concerns
- Reporting transparently on the condition of women in cocoa production in the company’s top four cocoa-supplying countries – and establishing a plan of action to address concerns in these same countries.
Unilever: Setting ambitious targets to promoting female empowerment throughout the supply chain – Global
In 2014, Unilever unveiled a set of ambitious new targets to empower women throughout its global supply chain. The consumer goods corporation is planning to empower at least five million women – in both its direct and indirect operations – through a variety of initiatives. These include: promoting women’s safety in the workforce and community: providing training for women to acquire new skills related to business, such as financial literacy; expanding opportunities specifically for women in the company’s retail operations; and advancing women to senior management positions.
According to Unilever, “evidence shows that our targets to increase agricultural yields and secure our supplies…can be better achieved if women receive help, skills and opportunities more equally.” The company says that is working closely with its global suppliers to accomplish these targets, with plans to report on progress in 2015 – using a 2013 baseline to assess results.
Coca-Cola: Investing in government women's entrepreneurship scheme - Kenya
In November 2013, Coca-Cola signed a sponsorship agreement with the government of Kenya to invest KES100 million (US$1,151,000) in promoting small businesses started by local women and youths. The project will support the government as it seeks to boost employment for women and young people across the country. To begin with, the successful female and youth entrepreneurs who apply to the scheme will be selling Coca-Cola beverages, before extending their wares to other basic commodities. Coca-Cola will provide the entrepreneurs with initial capital and sales equipment, such as ice boxes, to start their businesses. The beneficiaries of the scheme will also receive training and mentoring from Coca-Cola to support the sustainability of their businesses.
General Electric: Competition to address gender equality through business innovation - MENA
In 2013, General Electric (GE) began working with Ashoka Changemakers – a global online mentoring community – to promote and advance economic opportunities for women in 18 countries across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Together, the organisations have developed an innovative competition called Women Powering Work: Innovations for Economic Equality in the MENA Region. General Electric, a US-based conglomerate, said that the ultimate aim of the competition was to increase the number of women in the region’s labour force, where women typically represent just one quarter of the workplace.
Winners of the competition (whether individual women or women’s organisations) receive US$25,000 to support their business innovations. Criteria for successful proposals included creativity, understanding of the systemic barriers in women’s economic advancement and the qualitative and quantitative measurement of social impact. Applicants are also required to demonstrate that their innovations are financially sustainable by providing current and future financing plans, as well as timeframes for implementation.
Anglo American: Support female entrepreneurship through training and microfinancing – Peru
Anglo American, a US-based mining corporation, runs a female empowerment project in the Peruvian city of Moquegua, in conjunction with Pro Mujer, a women’s development and microfinance NGO. Pro Mujer provides local women with access to small loans and enterprise support to help them establish their own businesses. Moquegua is home to Anglo American’s Quellaveco copper project.
Anglo American said that it had built on its experience with enterprise development projects in South Africa and Chile to develop the project with Pro Mujer – on the basis that “entrepreneurship represents one of our most powerful mechanisms to promote socio-economic growth and make a real difference in the communities in which we operate”. Pro Mujer also works in Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru – with meetings taking place in 176 neighbourhood centres to provide financial services, training, and low cost primary healthcare. According to Anglo American, Pro Mujer operates almost 22,000 ‘communal banks’ made up of groups of 20 women who meet on a weekly basis to repay loans, receive training and benefit from peer support.
Coca-Cola: Promoting female economic empowerment through the 5by20 programme – US/Global
Coca-Cola is pursuing a global commitment to enable the economic empowerment of more than 5 million female entrepreneurs across its value-chain by 2020. As part of its ‘5by20’ programme, Coca-Cola seeks to give participants “access to business skills training courses, financial services and connections with peers or mentors -- along with the confidence that comes with building a successful business”. This includes women involved in:
- Agricultural production
- Supply of goods
- Artisanal activity
5by20 has been launched in 20 different countries, including (for example):
- South Africa
Further details on in-country 5by20 projects can be found on the project’s dedicated website. The company is working with several high-profile partners on the campaign, including the International Finance Corporation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UN Women.
Air France: Promoting equal pay and reducing discrimination – Global
Air France, a subsidiary of the Air France-KLM Group, has pursued a robust policy of promoting gender equality in the workplace ever since it signed an initial agreement with trade unions in 2002. This agreement was renewed and its scope extended in 2006. As part of this contract-based policy, the company has implemented equal pay initiatives. In 2008, a general audit was performed to ensure gender equal pay, resulting in 350 female staff benefiting from compensation equalisation measures. This measure was also renewed in subsequent years.
The company also releases annual reports that show pay increases by gender and grade, to ensure that pregnant female staff members benefit from the same pay increases as male staff-members during their maternity leave. To change mindsets in an environment where outdated stereotypes still persist, Air France maintains gender training and awareness-raising initiatives. The company also participates in projects that encourage schoolgirls to consider traditionally male-dominated jobs in the airline industry (such as pilots and mechanics) and schoolboys to consider traditionally female-dominated jobs in the airline industry (such as retailers, bookkeepers and flight attendants).
Arafa Holding: Promoting equity in the workplace – Egypt
Arafa Holding is a global textile and apparel retailer based in Egypt. The company emphasises that it enjoys the diversity of employees, customers and suppliers involved its various global operations. Arafa Holding was also among Egyptian companies that made the decision to adopt the Gender Equity Model in Egypt (GEME) to raise existing gender equality standards in the workplace.
The company offers incentives to women in order to retain them as valuable employees. For example, married women are at times exempted from working longer hours due to family responsibilities. Housing is also provided for married couples working in the company. Additionally, transportation services are provided by the company for employees who live in distant areas. Special time allowances are given to mothers who place their children in day care, and these women are allowed to use company transportation free of charge. Upon the adoption of the GEME, a Gender Equity Committee was established at Arafa, with memoranda defining its role circulated. In an attempt to assess the impact of the GEME, a survey was conducted which revealed that employees experienced benefits after its implementation.
IBM: Providing a family-friendly workplace – US
Technology company IBM has appeared regularly in Working Mother magazine's 100 Best Companies, which lists companies that lead the way in providing family friendly work conditions, including in the 2013 version of the index. IBM's flexible working options allow for around 40% of its 400,000 employees worldwide to work either off-site or remotely on any given day. The company provides 100 day care centres across its operations for those working mothers who are unable to work from home. All new parents are granted full health benefits for an unpaid leave period of up to 156 weeks, during which their jobs are guaranteed.
Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa: Respecting equal opportunity principles – Spain**
Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa (BBK) is a Spanish financial institution based in Biscay province. BBK emphasises that it respects equal opportunity principles with regard to salary as well as selection, promotion, training and development criteria. BBK promotes balance between work and personal life for its employees and publicises its commitment to equal opportunities on its website. This commitment is highlighted by the fact that BBK regularly undergoes External Equality Diagnostics which are validated by Emakunde, an autonomous government body.
BBK establishes Equality Strategic Plans which implement its stated principle of equal opportunity. The Strategic Plans have targeted investment in BBK’s social welfare work, including for the BBK Gazte Lanbidean foundation which is focused on fostering the employment of young people. The foundation, established in 1998, provides services for young men up to age 35 and (to promote equality) extends the age limit for women to 45. Online training courses, the implementation of a protocol with specific measures to prevent sexual harassment, and gender-based harassment in the workplace (with procedures for reporting harassment or related claims and the use of non-sexist language in communications) are three aspects of these detailed Equality Strategic Plans.
Chemical Industries Development: Adopting best practice principles – Egypt**
Chemical Industries Development (CID) is an Egyptian company involved in the production and trading of pharmaceutical products. As part of its commitment to promoting gender equality within the company, CID is one of the companies to have joined the Gender Equity Model in Egypt (GEME). The company’s commitment to the GEME is reflected in the best practices that it has adopted to promote gender equality within the workplace.
These include creating formal documentation of existing gender equality policies. CID’s low drop-out rates of working mothers is largely attributed to its subsidisation of day care. The company also emphasises equal pay for both males and females, and stresses the importance of qualifications – rather than gender – during the recruitment process. CID’s senior management is highly supportive of the GEME. As a result, CID has included training on gender equality in its yearly training plan, with the training manuals placed in the company library for easy employee reference. An additional manual has been developed to include all gender equality policies –and distributed across all departments. Furthermore, an email address has been created through which all employees and workers can direct their suggestions and inquiries to the Gender Equity Committee. There is also a complaints box available for employees to lodge grievances.
COSCO Group: Guaranteeing a fair and comparable wage – Global**
COSCO Group is a state-owned Chinese shipping and logistics services supplier company which has global operations. COSCO emphasises that it aims to protect the legal rights and special interests of female employees. The company has established a Female Employee Committee to assist in achieving these goals. It has also established a wage payment system which guarantees fair and equivalent wages for all employees doing comparable work, an open competition program which ensures promotion of competent females, and a collective contract to be signed by trade unions which specifically addresses concerns relevant to female employees. In addition, COSCO has created special health benefits for women including bi-annual gynaecological health examinations in addition to regular health examinations.
Safaricom: Creating a mother-friendly workplace – Kenya**
Safaricom, a Kenya–based leading provider of converged communication solutions, has gone to lengths to ensure that the needs of its working mothers are met. Through the adoption of various best practices in creating a mother-friendly environment, Safaricom has ensured that the needs of a working mother are amply met over and above the industry standards in Kenya. Working mothers’ pre- and post-natal requirements are provided for through Safaricom’s comprehensive medical coverage. Antenatal clinics and scans are covered, including both natural and caesarean deliveries. Once the baby is born all immunisations are provided for up to 9 months, helping to ensure a healthy start in life for children.
In the company’s new state of the art contact centre, Safaricom has provided a room for breastfeeding mothers and free day care facilities. The contact centre also houses an in-house doctor who can attend to the children should they fall sick while on the premises. HR policies have also been adapted to support the company’s working mothers. This includes three months of maternity leave, while the mother is still entitled to her annual leave. Safaricom has also developed mother-friendly working hours for those employees deployed in shift-based positions. New mothers are allowed to choose from various mothers’ shifts, designed to encourage breastfeeding for the first seven months after delivery.
* Taken from: UN Global Compact et al, Human Rights Translated: A Business Reference Guide
** Taken from: UN Global Compact and UNIFEM, Women's Empowerment Principles, Companies Leading the Way: Putting the Principles into Practice