New report highlights the private sector response to promoting gender equality in the Arab States

Cairo – In partnership with the UN Global Compact and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States published the Bridging the Gap in the Arab States report on emerging private sector response and recovery measures for gender equality, a companion piece to the global publication of UN Women and IFC ‘Bridging the Gap – Emerging Private Sector Response and Recovery Measures for Gender Equality amid COVID-19 (2020)

The report provides examples of good practices from a growing number of businesses in the Arab States that are taking gender-responsive action to ensure the economic inclusion and social well-being of their employees, customers, and suppliers, as well as local communities. By adopting a holistic and intersectional approach, the report presents the good practices of private sector companies across six diverse thematic pillars that can ultimately contribute to achieving better business outcomes, lowering turnover and absenteeism rates in the workplace, and increasing productivity levels in the workplace.

The six thematic pillars are: promoting well-being and mental health; providing flexibility and family-friendly policies; enabling equal access and use of digital technologies and platforms; ensuring equal access to financial and non-financial services; strengthening inclusive supply chains and support for women-led businesses; and addressing, preventing and mitigating gender-based violence.

Welcoming the release of the report, the Regional Director for UN Women in the Arab States, Ms. Susanne Mikhail Eldhagen, said “the economic crisis as result of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted different regions, countries, and populations differently. However, we do see one common thread, namely that women have borne the brunt of job losses and increases in unpaid care, as well as exposure to violence. We know from the evidence that women’s economic inclusion and increased labour force participation can significantly impact and accelerate the region’s socio-economic recovery, and hence address the negative consequences of the economic crisis. Therefore, UN Women emphasizes the importance of partnerships with the private sector to advance and promote gender equality in the workplace, marketplace, and communities. We are pleased to see that a growing number of companies in the region share this commitment, and applaud the more than 350 companies that have already signed the CEO Statement of Support to the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), forming part of a global platform of close to 6,500 members that are taking action towards women’s economic empowerment.”

“Ensuring women have a seat at the table is not just the right thing to do, it’s good business,” said Khawaja Aftab Ahmed, IFC’s Regional Director for the Middle East, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. “With the private sector facing uncertainty around the world, instilling workplace policies that address the gender gap will support businesses while promoting the sustainable growth of the global economy.”

Sanda Ojiambo, Assistant Secretary-General & CEO of the UN Global Compact said “while we are all navigating uncharted waters with the current converging crises of the world, one thing is for certain: to build forward better, we must build forward in a more gender inclusive way. Together, we can disrupt gender stereotypes and ensure that women and girls are empowered in business and beyond.”

The report makes a regional call to action for business leaders to introduce and implement necessary gender-sensitive policies and measures to address the gender gap. A gender-responsive business environment will translate into sustainable and inclusive development that will be more resilient to potential future socio-economic shocks.