ICC Secretary General puts the business case for gender diversity

  • 16 July 2014
ICC Diversity

International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Secretary General John Danilovich has urged businesses and governments to step up efforts to engage women more fully in the workforce, particularly in leadership positions.

Mr Danilovich told business, government and university representatives gathered in Sydney that despite making up over half of the world’s population, women’s contribution to measured economic activity was far below its potential.

“ICC applauds the efforts of the United Nations, the International Labour Organization and many others in raising awareness of issues around gender diversity in the workplace, not least of which include the economic growth gains waiting to be reaped by closing the gender gap,” he said, in one of his first speeches in his new role at the world business organization.

“There is a huge unrealized economic opportunity. Given the need for effective solutions to sustain global growth, it is both economically and socially necessary to tap into the skills and talent of women that are currently underutilized or left out of the labour force altogether. Since 812 million of the 865 million women worldwide who have the potential to contribute more fully to their economies live in the developing world, this is especially necessary for emerging and developing nations, since,” added Mr Danilovich.

The new ICC Secretary General was speaking at an event called “Women’s Empowerment Principles: Equality Means Business”, organized by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) alongside this week’s B20 summit for business leaders from Australia and across the G20 member countries.

Presenting the global business perspective, Mr Danilovich reported a greatly heightened recognition of the economic case for improving women’s workplace participation.

He said: “The social motives of just and equitable treatment of girls and women and the argument for empowering them remain as valid as always – but this isn’t altruism. Countries and companies that ignore this issue will do so to their own long term detriment economically as well as socially.”

Research cited by the IMF shows GDP per capita losses attributable to gender gaps in the labour market could reach 27% in certain regions. Japan – where the population is aging, and the gender gap increasing – could boost its GDP by 4% if its female labour participation rate were brought up to the average for G7 countries.

Many governments have adopted measures to try to reduce their gender gaps in employment. These range from legislation on discrimination, equality and sexual harassment, to new tax systems.

Noting that there is no “magic bullet solution”,  Mr Danilovich said that ICC, ACCI, the International Organisation of Employers and other organizations working with industry and government, had an important role to play in raising awareness of key guidelines such as the United Nations’ Women’s Empowerment Principles.

“In particular, ICC will help spread learning from cases where strides are being made in addressing the gender gap, and where possible to advance best practice policy steps for self-regulation application,” he said.

ACCI said its event would not only promote gender diversity in Australian businesses, but also raise awareness of women’s empowerment within the B20 process.

ICC is deeply engaged in making sure global business priorities are understood at the intergovernmental level and has been actively engaged in the G20 and B20 processes in addition to its advocacy work with the World Trade Organization and the UN and its many agencies.

The B20 Australia Summit takes place in Sydney from 16-18 July, providing an opportunity for the business community to share with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott business recommendations that are expected to be incorporated into the process leading up to the Brisbane G20 Leaders Summit in November. ICC Chairman Harold (Terry) McGraw III is leading an ICC delegation, which includes ICC Secretary General John Danilovich and leading members of the ICC G20 CEO Advisory Group, to build momentum for ICC policy priorities and advocate for progress on the global trade agenda.