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Intl. Women's Day 2017: Recent incidents of disproportionate impacts in business & some limited progress

"DC Women's March", by Liz Lemon is licensed under CC0 1.0

On 8 March, International Women’s Day, we are highlighting business’ impacts on women across the world – from agribusiness in Latin America, to apparel factories in India and the American engineering sector.

We also include some recent positive developments on gender equality, but cases from India, Tanzania and Guatemala demonstrate that companies must take stronger action to address their disproportionate impacts on women.

This story will be updated through the day with International Women’s Day items that relate to business.

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Article
8 December 2016

Jamaica: UNDP launches gender equality certification programme for businesses in Caribbean

Author: Tameka Gordon, Gleaner (Jamaica)

"UN Body Pushes For Gender Equality In Jamaican Workplaces", 7 Dec 2016

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is hoping Jamaica will become the first Caribbean nation with companies that gain certification under the Gender Equality Seal Certification Programme (GESCP).  Already launched in at 12 Latin American countries with at least 1,400 companies certified, the GESCP is a globally recognised programme that "allows private and public sector organisations to address gender gaps in their organisation"...The programme "aims to address persisting gender gaps in the workplace by encouraging entities to create equitable conditions for both men and women and establishing environments where women's work and contributions are equally valued," ..."The target is to have at least 30 companies signed up by next March," Chounoune said, even as she noted the cultural barriers that must be overcome to effect the changes the programme hopes to establish...[Refers to  Scotia Group, Jamaica National, Digicel, Rubis, Wysinco & the Development Bank of Jamaica] 

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Article
14 December 2016

Guatemala & Honduras: Report reflects on gender impacts of land grabbing by agribusiness & role of women as defenders

Author: International Land Coalition

 “Women in Honduras and Guatemala defend their communities from land grabbing by agribusiness”, 6 Dec 2016

 “We live right next to the plantation and the guards are always passing…They threw tear gas at us once when I was pregnant.” These are the words of Cecilia who, along with hundreds of other families was forcefully evicted from land in Bajo Aguan, Honduras. Across the border in the Polochic Valley in Guatemala, 769 Maya-Q’eqchi families have also been forcefully evicted. Their land has been grabbed to make way for the expansion of industrial scale sugar cane and African palm plantations for the production of food products, cosmetics and bio-fuels…In both cases, women in these communities face multiple forms of discrimination…However, the report highlights that these women are not simply victims. They play a crucial role in the community resistance to the land grabbing…[Refers to Chabil Utzaj and the Dinant Corporation]

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Report
23 December 2016

India: Study reports long working hours, sexual harassment & forced labour in Tamil Nadu's spinning mills

Author: India Committee of the Netherlands

New Research by the India Committee of Netherlands (ICN) shows that various forms of modern slavery, including child slavery, are found in more than 90% of the spinning mills in South India. These spinning mills produce yarn for India, Bangladeshi and Chinese garment factories that produce for the Western market. The report ‘Fabric of Slavery’ exposes the scale on which young girls and women are enslaved by employers who withhold their wages or lock them up in company-controlled hostels. They work long hours, face sexual harassment and do not even earn the minimum wage. 

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Article
13 January 2017

Germany: Govt. approves law to reduce wage gaps between men & women

Author: Gašper Završnik, Politico (Belgium)

"Germany backs equal pay laws", 11 Jan 2017

The German government on Wednesday backed a law that would let workers sue their employer if it can’t justify a wage gap between men and women for doing the same job...Under the draft law, companies with 200 or more employees will have to provide workers with details on how their salary is calculated and bigger companies, with more than 500 staff, will have to report regularly on efforts to provide equal pay...Women in Germany still earn less than men, official statistics show...

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Article
28 February 2017

USA: Female employee files lawsuit against Tesla alleging gender discrimination & sexual harassment

Author: Sam Levin, The Guardian (USA)

"Female engineer sues Tesla, describing a culture of 'pervasive harassment'", 28 Feb 2017

A female engineer at Tesla has accused...car company of ignoring her complaints of “pervasive harassment”, paying her a lower salary than men doing the same work, promoting less qualified men over her and retaliating against her for raising concerns...Vandermeyden began at Tesla in 2013 and was...promoted to a manufacturing engineering position in the general assembly department...[C]omplaint...alleges...that she raised issues about the flaws she observed, which supervisors and male engineers had missed...She and other female engineers were denied promotions even though they were “equally or more qualified” than the men, according to the complaint...[S]he also experienced “unwelcome and pervasive harassment by men on the factory floor...”, the lawsuit said...[H]er objections about sexual harassment and unequal pay only caused her more trouble, according to her complaint...Tesla did not respond to questions about Vandermeyden’s claims...Vandermeyden’s suit said she has suffered “mental distress” and “humiliation”...

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Report
3 March 2017

UN Women report on gender & extractives sector in Tanzania

Author: UN Women Tanzania & Global Affairs Canada

"Mapping Study on Gender and Extractives Report in Mainland Tanzania"

The study maps gender-specific challenges in the extractive industry, and provides policy recommendation on how to promote women’s engagement in non-traditional employment, such as in the mining sector. It identifies barries faced by women such as sexual harassment including in artisanal mines, discrimination during employment and maternity and lack of capital to engage in artisanal mining.

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Article
7 March 2017

Intl. Organisation of Employers calls for "female-only speaker day" at UN forum on Business & Human Rights

Author: Linda Kromjong, Secretary-General, International Organisation of Employers (IOE)

Dear Members of the UN Working Group and the Forum Secretariat…Today marks International Women’s Day with a message of #BeBoldForChange...Much work is needed to achieve gender parity across the broad range of business and human rights issues. In my view, one powerful way to signal the importance of the gender lens would be to introduce a female-only speaker day at the 2017 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights (27-29 November, Geneva). This could be backed by a challenge to all session organisers that the remaining Forum sessions are composed of at least 50 percent women…Having a female-only speaker day and a programme with at least 50 percent female speakers would send a loud signal that the UN Forum is seeking to redress an historical and global imbalance when it comes to public discourse…The international community largely fails to ensure a critical mass of female voices across various fora. I urge the UN Working Group and the Forum Secretariat to be bold and push our community to practice what it regularly preaches...

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Article
8 March 2017

Commentary: From contention to critical engagement on women's rights in business

Author: Srilatha Batliwala, Association for Women’s Rights in Development, IHRB (UK)

“A Contentious Connection - Business and Women’s Rights”, 8 Mar 2017

[M]assive feminisation of the labour force in a growing number of industries…over the past four decades...has meant erosions in…labour rights and protections for women workers…because they are “too expensive”...Women workers are provided limited or no employment security, poor wages and benefits, and equal pay for equal work is an exception not the rule…Most companies that feminised their workforces…paid little or no attention, much less responded to, the increased violence or exploitation women workers faced from unemployed male partners, sexual harassment and “sextortion” at the workplace, or even basic physiological needs like more toilet breaks for menstrual hygiene…It is unfortunate..this damning record has submerged...the efforts of the more enlightened sections of...business...to right the historical wrongs not only against women, but other groups and identities stigmatised and excluded…[B]usiness can make a huge difference, and…some in the business sector see that not only as a possibility, but a central responsibility…[How do] we…move this contentious relationship…towards…critical engagement? What would women’s rights advocates say to business leaders, if they were to agree to a constructive dialogue?

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Article
8 March 2017

Switzerland: Firms pledge to support & promote women in the workplace

Author: Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi, Reuters (UK)

"Swiss firms set goals to get more women into top roles", 8 Mar 2017

Swiss firms from food and beverage giant Nestle...to banking groups UBS...and Credit Suisse...pledged new goals on Tuesday to support and promote women.  While Switzerland has Europe's second-highest proportion of women in the workforce, it trails global standards on gender diversity in boardrooms and in management positions.  Consultancies EY, Deloitte and PwC and staffing agency Adecco...all committed to increase female leadership in their Swiss businesses to between 20 and 35 percent by 2020.  This follows a recent survey by EY which found Swiss firms with at least 20 percent women in top management rated their financial situation as better, while studies by UBS have found companies with greater gender diversity consistently outperform.  Women represent just 6.7 percent of Swiss executives, according to Credit Suisse, compared to a global average of 13.8 percent and European average of 12.6 percent.  They occupy one out of eight board seats, half the European average.  [Also refers to Siemens, IKEA, Advance and iCubed].

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