International Women's Day, Women's Empowerment Principles, and the Millennium Goals
As the UN reviews what is next for the Millennium Development Goals, some topics hold the key for what we need to commit next as a global community… Have we really done enough in Human Rights when women are still largely at the margin in many societies? What are ways we can promote economic development and what role can women play in it?
I had the honor of participating at a Panel at the UN NY in February 2014. The panel was part of the societal consultation process for updating the millennium goals. The topic at hand was promoting entrepreneurship, particularly for women. A few topics were at the center of this discussion:
- To promote women entrepreneurship, governments need to promote entrepreneurship itself. Creating an environment where both men and women benefit. Small businesses can be an engine for economic growth, creating employment and empowering people to pursue and realize their dreams.
- The basics need to be in place. You need access to water, electricity, infrastructure. In my view, more than ever, a business owner needs access to broadband technology to access global learning and global markets. And many studies show how an increase in broadband access increases GDP.
- Then in particular, we need to create a leveled playing field, where women can have access to capital, financial resources and markets. In some countries, it will take changing archaic laws, so women can sign contracts and own assets such as land.
- And finally, there is a whole support system that needs to be created to bring integrity to the process. In the US, entities such as WBENC certify women owned business and create the opportunity for smaller business to participate in government and private company procurement. Private companies and governments then create ways to make it easier for small businesses and women owned business to have access to their procurement process and a fair chance to compete.
Why would Alcatel-Lucent be invited to participate in such as discussion?
First of all, we were one of the first signatories of the UN-Women's Empowerment Principles and gender diversity and other forms of diversity are part of our value system and supports talent in our company.
Second, it is a little known fact that for the sixth year in a row, we have been acknowledged as one of America’s top Corporations for Women’s Business Enterprise . Together with top US carriers, we support local businesses and in particular women and minority owned businesses in the communities where we operate. As of recently, women’s owned business represented 5% of our total spend in the country.
Is it perfect? No. We can’t do it in every country as we need some basic things to be in place as mentioned above. But it is a starting point. So at the panel, we shared lessons learned on including women owned business as part of our procurement goals and as we apply ourselves to support the implementation of WEPs and areas for improvement.
This week, we celebrate International Women’s Day and around the world, people at Alcatel-Lucent are mobilizing to take stock and celebrate women and men collaborating to be the best company we can be for our communities, our customers, employees, and stockholders.
[Editor's Note: This Blog was republished with permission from Alcatel-Lucent.]