HeForShe Congress equips Ukraine’s businesses with the tools to create gender-sensitive workplaces

Date: Friday, October 16, 2020

Equally valued in business, HeForShe Congress. Visual: UN Women Ukraine

‘Equally valued in business’ was the theme for the Ukraine HeForShe Congress 2020. Celebrated on 1 October, the annual event was held online amid the coronavirus pandemic. Progressive businesses from across the country gathered for the third consecutive year to explore ways to support equal opportunities for all employees.

The aim of HeForShe Congress this year was to provide Ukrainian businesses and private sector partners with the basic understanding and tools on how to practically promote gender equality in their work and to change the corporate culture.

"There is an increasing number of businesses investing in their employees. More men and women benefit from the inclusive environment that allows for personal growth, encourages creativity, and supports reconciliation of work and family responsibilities,” said Erika Kvapilova, UN Women Representative in Ukraine when opening the session. “This is a win-win situation, that brings businesses more sustainability and the effective use of men’s and women’s talents and makes employees more satisfied and productive,” she said.

Through a series of videos, CEOs, director level leaders, human resource (HR) directors and managers, shared their personal experiences of rolling out gender equality solutions in their own business. They discussed how they addressed the challenges and the results they achieved.

One of the participants raised the issue of unconscious bias in business culture.

“One of the biggest obstacles to gender equality is stereotypes, and very often bias is unconscious,” said Maryna Zakharina, HR Associate Director of Ernst & Young Ukraine, during the panel discussion on ‘Why business should be a safe space for workers’. “We conduct trainings aimed at developing employee awareness, and this is what helps us to improve the atmosphere in the company and the principles of corporate culture,” she said.

During the session entitled ‘How Leaders Drive Changes in Corporate Values’, senior executives of StarLightMedia, Ferrexpo Poltava Mining and IT-Integrator talked about the competition of corporate values, a new understanding of leadership, and gender equality as a sustainable value.

“Gender inequality needs to be addressed, and leaders must take on the implementation of gender policies at the company level. We tested gender awareness levels in our company and created the role of ‘gender ambassador’ - a person who oversees the implementation of gender equality actions. The main thing is to start and continue moving in the right direction,” – concluded Viktor Lotous, General Director and Chairman of Ferrexpo Poltava Mining Management Board.

Representatives of Nestle, Deloitte Ukraine and Intellias led discussion on ‘How companies can create equal opportunities for parenting’ designed to respond to a wide range of questions including: How can businesses remain efficient? How can they retain skilled and experienced workers? How should companies support their employees not only professionally, but also in striving to be efficient parents?

“To become a gender-sensitive business, management must decide that it is important and listen to the needs of employees. If you understand that these are the values you share, then the rest is just a formality. You will do it, because for you it will go without saying,” said Viktoria Chornovol, Partner of Tax & Legal department at Deloitte Ukraine.

During the event, UN Women introduced the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), a tool designed to offer guidance to businesses on how to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace, marketplace and community. Established by UN Global Compact and UN Women, the WEPs are informed by international labour and human rights standards and grounded in the recognition that businesses have a stake in, and a responsibility for, gender equality and women’s empowerment. Over 3,600 companies around the world are currently using this set of principles to foster practices such as equal pay for work of equal value, gender-responsive supply chain practices and zero tolerance against sexual harassment in the workplace.

Created by UN Women, the HeForShe solidarity movement for gender equality provides a systematic approach and targeted platform where men and boys can engage and become change agents towards the achievement of gender equality. The HeForShe movement in Ukraine is implemented with the financial support of Sweden.