International Women’s Day 2016 which fell on 8 March, called for moving from commitment to action. Its campaign theme for this year, ‘Pledge for Parity’ sets out five areas for action – help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender balanced leadership, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures, root out workplace bias and value women’s and men’s contribution equally. This pledge envisages companies and also individuals contributing directly to the nationwide/global efforts to reach equality.
The report, ‘Women in business and management: Gaining momentum in Asia and the Pacific’ (2015) brings together data collected from the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) global company survey in 2013 on gender diversity in the workplace, specific to the Asia-Pacific region and also incorporates other latest data to provide overview of the status of women in business and management. The regional report also aspires to create greater understanding on the barriers to women’s advancement in business and management and to share recommendations on how to address these barriers.
Among its other observations, the report notes that the employers’ organisations in Asia and the Pacific can play ‘an important role in providing information and making the link between productivity and gender diversity policies’. It asserts that such organisations ‘represent a powerful network and stand to gain positive visibility and membership value in promoting gender diversity as a strategic business concern’. The report also encourages employers’ organisations to be ‘knowledge partners, provide access to information and disseminate good practice on gender issues relevant to business and efficient labour markets’.
The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon has partnered with the ILO and has been promoting gender equality at the workplace for many years through policy development, advocacy and training. These include Guidelines for Company Policy on Gender Equity/Equality, ILO publication on ‘Maximising Benefits – Ensuing Equality in HRD, Code of Conduct and Procedures to Prevent and Address Sexual Harassment in Workplaces, Women in Business and Management: in Asia and the Pacific (ILO,2015).
“We encourage our member companies to peruse these documents which could be accessed through the EFC and to consider afresh how the guidelines and/or action points set out therein could be implemented at enterprise level,” says Senior Industrial Relations Advisor and Head of Training, EFC, Ayomi Fernando.
The EFC has also been active over the past few years in advocacy efforts directed at creating more and better jobs for women. Recent initiatives include lobbying for changes to restrictive labour laws which preclude women from accessing jobs in the IT enabled sector, a sector of enormous potential growth for Sri Lanka.
In Sri Lanka, despite high levels of educational achievement women lag behind in the labour market – be it in labour force participation rates, unemployment under-employment and educated unemployment, representation at mid-senior management levels, points out Fernando who cites the UN Women Report: ‘Transforming Economies, Realising Rights Progress of the World’s Women’ (2015-2016) in this regard. “Creating more and better jobs for women has been earmarked as Number One out of the ten priorities for public action by this report. It also points out than a number of concrete measures including designing macro-economic policies that stimulate economic activities and increase demand for labour, rather than focusing on an overly narrow set of targets such as maintaining inflation at very low levels, are required to create more and better jobs for all.”
For more information on the ILO/ACTEMP publication ‘Women in Business and Management: Gaining Momentum in Asia and the Pacific’ please visit http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---asia/---ro-bangkok/---sro-bangkok/documents/publication/wcms_379571.pdf.