Women’s Empowerment Principles Gain Strength as 800 Companies Commit to Gender Equality at the Highest Level

New Co-Chairs of Leadership Group to Support the WEPs and Help Advance Women in the Private Sector
Sep 4, 2014 12:00 PM ET

NEW YORK,  September 4, 2014 /3BL Media/ -  As the business case grows stronger, more than 800 CEOs representing a global group of leading corporations from all sectors and regions have made a public commitment to support the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) – Equality Means Business. The WEPs, a joint initiative of the UN Global Compact and UN Women, is now the largest voluntary corporate platform to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace, marketplace and community.

Building on this momentum, the two partner organizations have appointed new co-chairs of the WEPs Leadership Group.  As longtime champions of the WEPs and gender equality globally, Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner of the Australian Human Rights Commission of Australia, and Joe Keefe, Chief Executive Officer of Pax World Funds, will provide high-level strategic advice to the initiative, which has grown enormously from the 39 original CEO signers of the WEPs CEO Statement of Support in 2010.

Speaking about the new appointments, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said, "Strong alliance with the private sector for women’s empowerment is a top priority for me. Elizabeth Broderick and Joe Keefe know so well how the business community, as employers and thought leaders, are on the front line of making the changes that will count in culture, recruitment, training and career structures for women.” She added, “The Women’s Empowerment Principles are the essential platform that will help us to tackle inequality and discrimination and drive inclusion and innovation.”

"Business cannot thrive without the full participation of women, and we need strong leaders to set an example for the advancement of gender equality in the private sector,” said Georg Kell, UN Global Compact Executive Director. “We are confident that Elizabeth Broderick and Joe Keefe will continue to strengthen the WEPs initiative and reinforce that equality really does mean business."

The WEPs Leadership Group was established in 2011 to provide policy guidance to the Women’s Empowerment Principles.  The group is comprised of approximately 30 individuals representing business, academia, civil society, women’s organizations and international institutions from a broad range of geographies and sectors. 

Co-Chairs Lead the Way

As a key advocate for national paid parental leave and violence against women reforms, Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick led changes to the Australian Securities Exchange Corporate Governance Council’s Diversity Principles and was instrumental in bringing together some of Australia’s most influential and diverse male CEOs and Chairpersons to form the Male Champions of Change group in 2010.

“The WEPs offer a vital framework for organizations to ensure the active inclusion of women, to drive women’s empowerment and leadership, as well as build national productivity and growth,” said Broderick. “While there are many, many successful women leaders already driving change across organizations, we are yet to see a critical mass of men taking action to promote gender equality. To drive change we need those with power to engage, to adopt the WEPs and take action. I look forward to working with male and female leaders from around the world to bring the WEPs to life so that together we can create a world where gender equality lies at the heart.”

Joe Keefe was one of the first chief executives to endorse the WEPs and received a WEPs Leadership Award in 2014. Across all of its funds, Pax World Funds withholds support from all-male corporate board slates and actively engages with companies to embrace gender diversity on their boards. Following the 2013 Rana Plaza Tragedy in Bangladesh, Keefe personally encouraged more than 135 chief executives to support gender equality in their supply chains, and implement and report on the seven Women’s Empowerment Principles in their own operations and those of their suppliers. Most recently Pax World Funds announced the Pax Ellevate Global Women's Index which rates companies on a set of criteria that advances gender equality and women's empowerment, including whether a company is a WEPs signatory.  

“As a strong advocate of businesses as key drivers in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment, I am excited to assume the role of Co-Chair of the WEPs Leadership Group,” said Keefe. “When women are equals at the table, businesses are stronger and the Women’s Empowerment Principles are a key tool for companies to advance women’s leadership.”


About the Women’s Empowerment Principles
The Women's Empowerment Principles – Equality Means Business is a joint initiative of UN Women and the UN Global Compact. The Principles outline seven steps for business on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. The Principles highlight that empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors and throughout all levels of economic activity is essential to build strong economies; establish more stable and just societies; achieve internationally agreed goals for development, sustainability, and human rights; improve quality of life for women, men, families and communities; and propel business' operations and goals. Learn more at www.WEPrinciples.org or email womens-empowerment-principles@unglobalcompact.org.

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Ursula Wynhoven
Chief, Governance and Social Sustainability, General Counsel
UN Global Compact

Kristen Coco
Media Relations & Public Affairs
UN Global Compact