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Global efforts towards better corporate responsibility are “ignoring women”

GENEVA (20 June 2014) – In the emerging area of corporate responsibility, disparate harm to women from business and trade policies has been largely invisible, the United Nations Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice has warned in its latest report* to the UN Human Rights Council on discrimination against women in economic and social life.

“Moves to export processing zones, deplorable working conditions in sweatshops and land dispossession, where compensation is restricted only to owners, who are usually male, are a breeding ground for violation of human rights, and most victims are women,” explained human rights expert Frances Raday, who currently heads the Working Group.

“Furthermore, the dramatic increase in resource and income inequalities, resulting from economic and corporate policies, has especially harsh implications for women, who are lower on the value chain,” she pointed out

The human rights expert stressed that “States have a due diligence obligation, under international human rights law, to prevent discrimination by business entities within their jurisdiction.”

“We call on Governments to ensure that the principles of corporate responsibility take account of women’s different interests and needs, and to identify, prevent and remedy the harm caused to women by corporate activities,” she said.

Ms. Raday further urged UN Member States to put an end to laws, including personal laws that discriminate against women, restricting their autonomy, right to property and freedom of movement, precluding as a result their equal participation in economic activities.

The Working Group report documents the significant contribution made by women to the business sector through findings which consistently show the advantages of gender diversity in enhancing company performance and increasing economic sustainability.

Nevertheless, as the report highlights, there is a severe gender gap in top economic leadership at both global and national levels. Women are almost invisible in the top echelons of international organizations such as the IMF, GATT and the WTO, and currently account for only 4.8 percent of chief executive officers in Fortune 500 companies and less than 10 percent of central bank governors.

“Good practice in eliminating discrimination against women in this area includes mandating gender quotas for corporate boards and advancing women’s business and entrepreneurship opportunities through provision of training, information, credit and saving facilities and government procurement policies that target women’s businesses,” Ms. Raday noted.

(*) The Working Group’s report is available at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session26/Pages/ListReports.aspx

ENDS

The UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice was established by Human Rights Council in September 2010 to identify, promote and exchange views on good practices related to the elimination of laws that discriminate against women. The Group is composed of four independent experts from all regions of the world: Frances Raday (Israel/United Kingdom), Chair-Rapporteur; Emna Aouij (Tunisia); Eleonora Zielinska (Poland); and Kamala Chandrakirana (Indonesia). Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/en/issues/women/wgwomen/pages/wgwomenindex.aspx

Check the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CEDAW.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Caroline Meenagh (+41 22 917 9202 / cmeenagh@ohchr.org) or write to wgdiscriminationwomen@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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