Applying a Gender Lens to Sustainable Procurement

Gender Equality at Work

What’s in this spotlight?

This is an overview for buyers on why it is important to include a gender lens to procurement strategies and practices. It provides a practical step-by-step guide on how buyers can advance gender equality and promote non-discrimination through procurement decisions and explains the business benefits of sourcing from women-owned or gender-responsive businesses.

While this Spotlight is focused on advancing gender equality in supply chains, it also recognises the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, including factors such as race, ethnicity, religion or belief, disability, health, social status, age, class, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity, national extraction or social origin.

The importance of gender equality

Gender equality is a fundamental human right, and the responsibility to respect human rights is a global standard of expected conduct for all businesses wherever they operate.

Empowering women and promoting gender equality creates social and economic value in the marketplace, workplace and community. Gender equality is crucial to accelerating sustainable development and achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality, Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth and Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities, and it has a multiplier effect across all other development areas. Equality of opportunity and treatment for all genders is an essential aspect of decent work.

Gender equality in the world of work means promoting opportunities for all genders to obtain decent work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity.

Gender equality in the world of work means promoting opportunities for all genders to obtain decent work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. This means, for instance, enhancing decent employment opportunities through measures that also aim to improve women’s access to education, skills training, and health care while considering women’s role in the care economy. An example would be to ensure family-friendly work practices are in place, including providing workplace-level incentives for the provision of child care and parental leave.

Barriers to gender equality

Achieving gender equality means eradicating all forms of discrimination and removing all barriers that prevent equal opportunities across all genders. For example, according to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2022, at the current rate of progress the economic gender gap will close in 151 years, representing multiple generations to parity.

Although this is a slight improvement from last year's estimate, the report emphasizes that as crises are compounding, women's workforce outcomes are suffering and the risk of global gender parity backsliding further intensifies. Despite global progress on gender equality in recent decades, several barriers remain:

Challenges for women-owned businesses:

Applying a gender lens to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Women and girls experience business-related human rights abuses in unique ways and are often affected disproportionately, including facing multiple forms of discrimination and experiencing additional barriers in seeking access to effective remedies.

The UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) acknowledge the importance of gender in several places (Principles 3, 7, 12 and 20). However, progress toward gender equality has been slow. This has resulted in increased efforts to ensure that the measures taken to implement the UNGPs are gender-responsive, including the publication of specific guidance and illustrative actions for each of the UNGPs.

Case Study: The positive role a company can play in advancing gender equality