Over the past decade, the business case for gender equality has expanded and deepened. But there are still various social, economic and cultural barriers preventing women from engaging in income-generating activities. UN Women’s WEPs are a primary vehicle for corporate delivery of the gender equality dimensions of the 2030 agenda and the UN SDGs.
PwC Georgia assisted UN Women to analyse the impact that implementing Women’s Empowerment Principles has had on the private sector in Georgia.
UN Women Georgia
PwC developed the first ever study to assess the work that WEPs signatory companies had undertaken in relation to gender equality and women's empowerment. The study looked at the outcomes that they were able to achieve for their employers, companies and the community as a whole. The recommendations derived from our work will be used by UN Women for planning their future programme activities.
According to the United Nations, gender equality is a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. The private sector is one of the key stakeholders for promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment globally. Achieving gender equality could add upwards of US$12 trillion to the world’s economy. An increasing number of businesses have concluded that it is now time to examine their operations through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion in order to maximise opportunities for everyone.
In 2010, UN Women and the UN Global Compact teamed up to help businesses around the world foster gender equality in the workplace and society. The Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs) were born as a result. The seven principles include a foundation for large and small businesses to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.
In addition to its global reach, the WEPs movement gained traction in Georgia. UN Women assisted 80 companies in Georgia to analyse their performance using a gender gap analysis tool (WEPs tool) and develop action plans. But they wanted to ensure the principles were effective and impactful.
PwC designed a tailored approach to analyse the impact of WEPs. The assessment focused on the signatories motivation to join WEPs, their level of implementation, the main barriers they face, and the impact WEPs has had on their companies and employees.
PwC implemented the study using a three-phased approach and the mixed-model research method, which incorporated quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis. We conducted online surveys among the 80 WEPs signatory companies, representing more than 12 sectors in Georgia. In addition to the online surveys, we conducted in-depth interviews with UN Women, three project consultants and three signatory companies.
The PwC team presented a final report to UN Women, based on the analysis of survey outcomes, in-depth interviews and examples of best practices drawn from our experience.
The key findings of the study were:
Regardless of size, any company can successfully implement WEPs. Instead, the company’s motivation, readiness and tailored action plan has more impact on the success of implementation.
The top three benefits that the private sector gains by undertaking the WEPs work are: a stronger corporate reputation, contribution to women’s empowerment that will also help the economy and improved productivity of female employees.
While most companies do collect sex-disaggregated data, large and medium size companies tend to fall behind.
Out of the 40 WEPs companies surveyed, 75% have established a sexual harassment complaints mechanism in their workplace, and 13% of these companies have already received and handled a complaint regarding sexual harassment.
Companies have already made investments that will improve gender equality in their business. Signatory companies have procured goods and services from women entrepreneurs, offered training, and provided scholarships for both internal staff and other women.
Based on the findings, we proposed the following recommendations:
Improve the strategic targeting and outreach - While an organisation’s categorisation (size, sector) does not have an impact on the effectiveness of WEPs implementation, it is clear there are certain sectors who have reflected relatively better engagement. Focusing on certain sectors for outreach and induction could lead to wider overall results.
Formalise the process for induction, participatory planning and categorisation of organisations - A formal induction process can be established for companies who are new signatories to the WEP. The induction process can be contextualised based on the levels of interest reflected by the signatory organisations. This process brings like-minded companies together in smaller groups, based on either sector or motivation factors, to provide peer-to-peer learning opportunities.
Promote implementation driven by data analysis evidence - Data gathering, analysis, review and sharing should be a continuous process and should be applied for designing all implementation activities/interventions.
Encourage sustainability and scalability - Our research found that many companies were unable to sustain changes introduced due to COVID-19; however, some chose to adapt to the new normal. As a result, it is essential to capitalise on such pioneers and change agents, and encourage sustainability and scalability of activities pertaining to WEPs from companies.
Since the launch of WEPs work in Georgia back in 2017, UN Women has been exploring different models of monetizing the resources allocated by companies towards gender equality and women’s empowerment. Given the extensive experience and solid reputation of PwC, partnering with them was strategically important for us to make sure that the model used is not only reliable for us, but also accepted by the private sector. And I think we successfully achieved this result.
Through the Women's Empowerment Principles, UN Women is promoting private sector engagement in women’s economic empowerment. With the assistance of PwC, UN Women studied the impact of WEPs work on the private sector for the first time in Georgia.
This project will help build upon the impact WEPs has already had in Georgia. For example, 40 of the signatory companies were able to change the lives of 7,000 women. Many of the women (33%) received support in professional development, 17% received training on gender equality issues, and 9% took an online course on the prevention of sexual harassment.
The complete implementation of PwC’s recommendations will help UN Women Georgia increase the effectiveness of WEPs and tailor it to further meet the needs of signatory companies. The study report will be used to raise greater awareness of the tangible business benefits of diversity and inclusion for private sector companies in Georgia.
As part of the study, PwC looked at how COVID-19 has impacted the private sector. As revenues suffered, we saw gender decrease in prioritisation. Remote work and event restrictions also made it difficult for companies to implement WEPs action plans. Despite the challenges, many companies were able to find innovative solutions to ensure their implementation did not fall behind, such as flexible working arrangements, increased promotion of gender equality on social media, and guidance for women entrepreneurs on protective measures related to COVID-19.
Companies who participated in the survey and interviews showed positive trends for gender equality, setting a business case for continued and targeted investments for gender diversity. With 2021 underway, it is a decisive decade to achieve the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Accelerating gender-diverse workforces to their full potential would help attract talent, reduce turnover, and contribute to long-term economic prosperity.
Director, PwC Georgia
Senior Manager, PwC Georgia