Affirming the gender equality agenda at the WEPs 2016

Janet Lung Standing, Global SSD Director Dairy Ingredients at Danone shares what reinforced her passion for gender parity at WEPs 2016.

In 2010 UN Women and UN Global Compact joined forces to form the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) – a platform where business leaders, civil society, the UN and Government come together to scale-up actions on unleashing the full potential of women and girls. This year’s annual event Business Partners for Gender Equality: Multipliers for Development came at a momentus time after the launch of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Goal no. 5, Planet 50-50 is set forth in the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

How did you find the WEPs 2016 event?

It was truly inspirational!

The WEPs event was good reminder of what equality means – an environment where men and women can contribute their best and be recognised fairly for it.  The WEPs has been an effective platform for businesses and governments to collaborate on accelerating progress.  Leaders around the world shared examples of heartwarming projects, demonstrated their belief and leadership on gender equality through the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs).

I’ve been so energised. Since the event, I shared my learning with like-minded colleagues at Danone, including members of the Board so that Danone might consider signing up for the WEPs CEO’s pledge.

You’ve always been a strong advocate. What gave you that extra spurt of passion at WEPs 2016?

A McKinsey study revealed that gender equality will unlock 12 Trillion USD by 2030 for the global economy – if we let it. At this point, gender equality stops being a niche initiative for companies and governments, it is a fundamental necessity for tackling the global challenges we face.  More and more investors are looking for gender equal practices as an important criteria for sustainable investment.

You’ve attended several Inclusion & Diversity events. What surprised you at the WEPs 2016?

One thing that astounded me was the rate of our progress on the subject. Despite the recent wave of efforts towards gender equality, according to the speaker from McKinsey, it would take us 96 years to reach the Planet 50-50 goal.  It imperative that we take action to accelerate the progress. We would otherwise  run the risk of making more progress on cruelty against animals than cruelty to women in some countries, sadly. It was made evident that we suffer the consequence of making gender equality a women’s issue.  Respect and equality are for everyone. 

What struck a cord with you even after the event?

The compelling stories of women leaders and similar patterns of offense and inequality; their resilience despite repeated injustices they faced and; the creative and persistent ways they wouldn’t let cold water extinguish their passion to make a difference. 

Another valuable insight that will stay with me is the important role of male middle managers and how companies can engage them through management development processes,  positively enrolling them as ambassadors of healthy, inclusive practices.  There is still pressure among men when it comes to gender equality, especially in feeling humiliated and reproached when addressing undesirable behaviours from fellow colleagues.