Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Remarks to event marking the One-Year Anniversary of the Women's Empowerment Principles [as prepared for delivery]

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 09 March 2011

Distinguished leaders of business and industry,
Ladies and gentlemen,

A year ago today, we launched the “Women’s Empowerment Principles – Equality Means Business” because we knew it made sense. Companies around the world agreed. Executives from Brazil to India … Spain to Japan … the United States to Indonesia … said this is the right initiative at the right time. And they joined with us to make sure that women are treated fairly in their companies.

This initiative is a key part of the UN’s broader campaign for empowerment and equality.

That campaign includes a huge push for women’s health. Last year, governments, the private sector and philanthropists pledged $40 billion for our new Global Strategy for Women and Children’s Health.

We are strengthening our advocacy against sexual violence and demanding an end to impunity. Just last month, a Congolese army colonel was sentenced to 20 years in prison in connection with a mass rape. We welcome this action by the national authorities… but we expect much more in Congo and beyond.

We are putting women front and centre in UN efforts for peace -- at the negotiating table … in police precincts … in presidential palaces.

And we are getting our own house in order. The establishment of UN Women last year was a major step forward. Its Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet, joins a sisterhood of female leaders across the UN system. And I am still recruiting more.

So we are working to promote health … end violence … and help women advance. Every one of those goals is covered by the Women’s Empowerment Principles.

When you embrace these principles, you join a great and gathering movement to unleash the power of women and change the world. This is critical. We are making progress … but in too many countries and societies, women remain second-class citizens.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Businesses have a tremendous reach. You have ideas. You have capital. You are innovators. By working together based on shared values, we can advance the common good.

That is why I am so grateful to UN Women and the Global Compact for bringing you all here.

When you act in the workplace, we see the effects throughout society.

When you fight violence, empower women and give them opportunities, you help change attitudes.

And that is the basis for lasting progress … in homes, communities and countries.

Since last year, a number of companies that have embraced the Empowerment Principles raised their targets for hiring women. Others realize that women-owned enterprises deserve equal chances to compete for procurement.

I applaud the more than 160 companies that have signed on to the Principles. But we need thousands more to reach a real tipping point.

You have heard of the glass ceiling – the invisible barrier that stops women’s advancement. In some countries, in some fields and in some businesses, that barrier is not made of glass – it is made of iron. That is what a professor from Botswana told a UN panel last month. She said that women often face barriers that are tougher to break than iron.

You can help change this.

You can work with us to empower women.

Together, we can shatter the iron ceiling.

Thank you.