First Workshop on the Women Empowerment Principles (WEPs)

These workshops are exclusive to WEPS signatories. Join the Target Gender Equality Program today!

On the 21st of April 2020, HR, CSR and legal professionals from 13 Lebanese companies from the private sector joined the first 2-hour orientation remote workshop on the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), an initiative launched in 2010 by UN Women and the UN Global Compact, to mobilize business action to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment at the workplace, marketplace and communities.

The workshop aimed at equipping the participants with the know-how and the skills to move from theory to practice in order to better advance gender equality and women’s empowerment. It also aimed to raise awareness about the current status of gender diversity within the corporate world, and to further develop recommendations for concrete initiatives to close the gender gap in business leadership.

The workshop covered a session on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. Participants were encouraged in developing strategies to recognize, report and appropriately respond to and prevent sexual harassment at work, despite the lack of a national legislation that states the role of employer in ensuring gender safety and health at work.

A special session was held on COVID-19 impact on businesses, and participants had the opportunity to share their company’s stories responding to the outbreak. Holdal Group, ITG Holding, LibanPost and BLF Bank shared with their colleagues some of the strategies they implemented to keep their employees on the payroll, and told us more about safety measures they took to reassure employees and ensure business continuity.

What did we learn?

  • Women are still underrepresented on boards of directors. Education is the main pathway towards gender equality.
  • Women are on the frontline to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The health sector is female-dominated, but not enough is being done to support them.
  • In order to gain control and shape localized gender policy changes, measuring indexes are crucial: recruitment, retention, and advancement sex-disaggregated data must be collected.
  • Only 6 out of 22 MENA countries (21%) have legislations tacking Sexual Harassment in the Workplace – Lebanon is not among the 6 countries.
  • Employers feel there is not a national alliance with policies set.
  • Most employees do not feel comfortable enough to report harassment, because they know it’s poorly legislated on a national level.
  • Companies should advocate for legislation on a national level that will give employers obligations under the law to take all reasonable measures to create a safe working environment for women – There have been 6 attempts already to create a law on Sexual harassment, unfortunately, it hasn’t been voted yet.
  • The private sector is encouraged to come up with innovative mechanisms to protect their female workforce and ensure their safety at work.
  • There is an entire debate about how to identify and penalize harassers, while not falling under false allegations. Holdal Group came up with an innovative strategy which states that it is the duty of the person accessed of harassment to prove he/she is innocent, and not the other way around.
  • The rise of gender-neutral branding is crucial, it reflects a mind of state and raise awareness within each company’s sphere of influence – BLF Bank modified the name of one of their products – i.e. key man to key person.
  • Exclusivity clauses in the Lebanese commercial law are not encouraging companies to source from women-owned businesses. However, LibanPost is leading by example: it has been favoring as much as possible suppliers in their request for quotation.

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