Stock Exchanges Around the World Ring the Bell for Gender Equality

11 March 2015

Partner stock exchanges from the UNCTAD co-organized Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative ring their opening or closing bells in support of gender equality and to highlight the pivotal role of the private sector in empowering women in the workplace, marketplace and community.

 

To mark the 20th anniversary of the World Conference on Women in Beijing and International Women's Day, the Bombay Stock Exchange, Borsa Istanbul, Egyptian Exchange, Nasdaq, Nigerian Stock Exchange, OMX Stockholm (part of Nasdaq group) and Warsaw Stock Exchange, came together in a global effort to raise awareness about the importance of gender equality to business.

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UNCTAD's James Zhan (left) with officials from UN Women, Borsa Istanbul and Turkish industry at the 6 March opening bell at Borsa Istanbul.
 

Speaking at the opening bell of Borsa Istanbul on 6 March, James Zhan, Director of UNCTAD's Investment and Enterprise Division said, "Investors around the world are realizing that not only is furthering gender equality the right thing to do, but it is also the economically smart thing to do. Enabling women's potential is central to ensuring sustainable and inclusive development, as well as boosting economic growth."

UNCTAD's 2014 report Investment by TNCs and Gender highlighted that Women's participation in the labour market is still limited in many countries. Globally, the gender gap in employment is as high as 25 percent. Women today represent almost 70 percent of the world's poor, earning only 10 percent of the world's income.

Borsa Istanbul Acting CEO Hüseyin Zafer said in his speech, "While the government offers the required infrastructure for economic growth and development through education policies, labor laws and other similar steps, companies should, through their human resources policies, take the necessary steps to reinforce gender equality in Turkey. Taking an active role in efforts related to education, sustainability and social responsibility efforts, Borsa Istanbul will continue to support every project that brings forth equality of opportunity for women, in cooperation with its stakeholders. We will continue to contribute to reinforce the awareness on the side of companies and investors".

UN Women Designated Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and Turkey representative Ingibjörg Gísladóttir said in her address at the Borsa Istanbul event, "In recent years many doors have opened up for women in the economic sphere. Today, women are CEOs of companies, scientists, engineers, doctors, factory workers. However, despite the progress, obstacles to women's full and equal participation in the economy persist. Women remain disproportionately affected by discrimination and exploitation in the workplace. Gender discrimination means women often end up in insecure, low-wage jobs, and constitute a small minority of those in senior positions." She added, "when more women work, economies grow."

 
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Nasdaq's Times Square video screen in New York City promotes the SSE initiative and the Gender Equality event

The series of stock exchange events were co-organized by UN Women, UN Global Compact and the UNCTAD co-organized Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative. Spanning seven countries and four continents, the global series was kicked off by the Egyptian Exchange on 2 March and culminated with an opening bell event at the Nasdaq Stock Exchange in New York on 9 March.

Speaking in Cairo on 2 March, Dr. Mohammed Omran, Chairman of the Egyptian Exchange said, "the private sector plays an essential and pivotal role in supporting women's economic empowerment all around the world. You could act as a leading entity to change the wage gap, ensure equality in the workplace and to support women as leaders in the business sector".

The Executive Director, Business Development, Nigerian Stock Exchange, Mr. Haruna Jalo-Waziri, remarked that, "achieving gender equality is important for workplaces not only because it is fair and the right thing to do, it is also vitally important to the bottom line of a business and to the productivity of our nation".

The global bell ringing events are taking place as part of a broader UN effort to take stock of where women stand in the world today, raise awareness on the importance of gender quality and enhance global action. The events brought together business leaders, investors, Government and UN officials, and other key stakeholders.

The events highlighted the Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs) - a joint initiative of UN Women and UN Global Compact. UN Women will be holding a series of events focused on gender equality from 6-20 March.

Cathy Engelbert, CEO-elect of Deloitte LLP rang the opening bell at NASDAQ in New York, remarking, "It is an honor and privilege to ring the opening bell at the NASDAQ for International Women's Day. Not only did Deloitte contribute to the development of the seven Women's Empowerment Principles, we've integrated them into our business as part of our commitment to promote gender equality worldwide."

While in New York, Fiona Reynold, Managing Director of the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), noted, "Gender equality is an issue that impacts everyone, from diversity in board rooms to equal opportunities for education. We have come far, but we have so much further to go. PRI welcomes the leadership taken by the exchanges, business representatives and UN officials who brought together these global bell ringing events and calls on all capital market actors to take their own steps toward gender equality".

"From Bombay to New York, bells are ringing for gender equality," said Georg Kell, Executive Director, UN Global Compact. "As an organizer of both the WEPs and the SSE initiative, the UN Global Compact is encouraged to see exchanges, companies, investors, Governments and the UN coming together to take on this critical issue of gender equality. If we are to ensure women's full and effective participation, and equal opportunity at all levels of political, economic and public life, we need the full commitment and collaboration of all stakeholders."

 
About the Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative
 

The Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative is a peer-to-peer learning platform for exploring how exchanges, in collaboration with investors, regulators, and companies, can enhance corporate transparency - and ultimately performance - on ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) issues and encourage responsible investment for sustainable development.

The SSE initiative is co-convened by four organisations:

  • United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
  • United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI)
  • United Nations Global Compact
  • UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI)

The SSE initiative invites exchanges globally to become a Partner Stock Exchange within the SSE by making a voluntary public commitment to promote improved ESG disclosure and performance among listed companies. In addition, the SSE welcomes participation from securities regulators, investors, companies and other key stakeholders with the initiative.