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Empowering Women Benefits Businesses

Non-governmental organization Civil Development Agency (CiDA) in partnership with UN Women and with the financial support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is implementing a project entitled “A Joint Action for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Georgia.”

One of the key components of the project is women’s empowerment in the business sector. For the purpose of the implementation of this particular component, CiDA has conducted gender assessments among number of business companies with the use of the Women Empowerment Principles Assessment Tool developed by the UN Global Compact and UN Women. By the end of the project CiDA plans to develop action plans in at least 60 companies.

In her interview with CBW, Executive Director of CiDA Salome Zurabishvili, talks about women empowerment action plans and its impact on business companies.

Salome, please briefly tell us what CiDA is doing to implement women’s empowerment action plans in business companies.

CiDA is assisting companies through individual consultations, trainings and relevant guidelines to implement the women’s empowerment principles inside the company, at the marketplace and in the communities.

Our consultations are very individual depending on the company size, sector, location and its stakeholders. The action plans for women’s empowerment are adopted based on the thorough assessment of the company’s policies and operations, and based on consultation with the company’s stakeholders. However, adoption of the action place by the head of the company is not enough. All of the employees of the company need to understand the document and its importance. Therefore, we are assisting companies in the process of communication of new policy with their employees.

Transparency of the company’s operations are principal for the achievement of the goal it has set, therefore annually we organize reporting conference in the country, where businesses share their achievements and challenges with their partners, media, non-governmental sector and the government representatives. Besides the annual events inside the country, we encourage Georgian business involvement in the international conferences as speakers or participants, providing them with the opportunity to share experience and knowledge in the field with the leading multinational companies, big and medium size companies from all over the world.

What does a company’s assessment entail and how are they (companies) selected?

The assessment of the company’s policies and operations from the gender sensitive perspective is implemented based on the assessment tool adopted by the UN on the global level, and adjusted by UN Global Compact Network Georgia / CiDA to the local context. The assessment is very thorough, analyzing policies and operation inside the company, in communication with business partners / investors, gender sensitive procurement, gender sensitive PR and marketing, and gender sensitivity with regard to consumers / customers and local community. The questionnaire consists of approximately 80 questions and helps the company to identify what are the challenges, gaps and opportunities it faces to diversify workforce, empower women and minority groups, thus contributing to the development of the company, the market economy and the local communities.

Any company which has more than 10 employees can engage in the programme and undergo the assessment.

What challenges occur while working with companies? What happens if they do not properly consider your recommendations?

Companies that engage with us, confirm their readiness on the CEO level to take steps toward women’s empowerment. The assessment is conducted with the involvement of the employees of the company and the action plan is adopted in consultation with the responsible person and the CEO.

In addition, we show the company how each implemented activity can contribute to increase of their income, employee satisfaction and productivity, consumer / customer satisfaction and other directions important for the growth of the company.

Therefore, most of our recommendations are considered by the company.

There are recommendations which the company might not be able to implement for the certain period of time, which is completely acceptable, since gender diversity is a work in progress, and cannot be implemented overnight.

Please provide some successful examples of changes made following your recommendations

Gender diversity and promotion of women to the managerial positions in number of companies; Overcoming stereotypes around “men” and “women” professions, and employing women in the role which are generally regarded as “men work”; partnerships around building capacity and employment of vulnerable women such as victims of domestic violence; Business involvement in the promotion of STEM among girls / women in the schools and universities; adopting effective complaints mechanisms inside the company for the prevention of sexual harassment and other types of gender-based discrimination; etc.

What does CiDA plan to achieve by the end of the year and what results do you expect to have accomplished by the end of the project?

By the end of the year we will have 23 companies who signed up to Women’s Empowerment Principles and adopted relevant action plans. We look forward to the reporting conference taking place in mid-December, to see what are the achievements of the involved businesses.

By the end of the project we count on involving at least 60 companies in the project and achieving considerable results in the country with regard to women’s empowerment. Business has the capacity to drive the change towards sustainable development, and this is the first step.

What would be your one message to business companies (CEOs) from the perspective of women’s empowerment in the workplace?

By empowering women, you empower your companies. So take action, there is no time to waste!