Expert Group Meeting


                           11 - 15  November 1996
               Simmons College, Graduate School of Management
                       Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

      The Division for the Advancement of Women is convening an Expert Group
Meeting on Women and Economic Decision-Making in International Financial
Institutions and Transnational Corporations to be held in the U.S.A., from 11
to 15 November 1996.

      The main purpose of the Expert Group Meeting is to suggest measures that
could contribute to increase, in a sustainable way, women's equal access to
and full participation in decision-making positions in international financial
institutions and transnational corporations.

      The outcome of the Expert Group Meeting will be before the United
Nations Commission on the Status of Women during its forty-first session in
March 1997. The Commission will take action on these measures in the framework
of the follow-up to the implementation of the 1995 Beijing Platform for

I. Background:

      The 1995 Beijing Platform for Action emphasized that equality in
decision-making is essential to the empowerment of women and that "Women's
equal participation in decision-making is not only a demand for simple justice
or democracy but can also be seen as a necessary condition for women's
interests to be taken into account".  Recognition was given, however, to the
fact that there are considerable differences in women's and men's access to
and opportunities to exert power over economic structures in most parts of the

      The Platform for Action has taken stock of the experience accumulated
during recent years which has demonstrated that women's involvement in
politics and decision- making positions in Governments and legislative bodies
contributed to redefining political priorities, placing new items on the
political, economic and social agenda that reflect and address women's
gender-specific concerns, values and experiences, and provided new
perspectives on mainstreaming political values.

      Experience has also shown that it takes a certain minimum size, a
"critical mass" of at leats 30% to 35% of a given sub-group to be able to
influence the culture of the group and to facilitate alliances between group
members. The relatively fewer the number of women in decision-making
positions, the less they are likely to be able confidently to assert
themselves, their values, priorities, managerial styles and characteristics.
The Platform for Action, thereby calls for all employers to build a critical
mass of women managers and executives in decision-making positions.

      While it was formally adopted for its implementation by Governments, the
Beijing Platform for Action also directed its attention to international
financial institutions and transnational corporations, recognizing their
potential role for the advancement of women. Nevertheless, it was also
recognized that these organizations do not make full use of women's talents as
top-level managers, policy-makers and negotiators preventing women from having
an impact on many key issues.

      Over the last few decades private sector firms and industries have been
at the centre of an accelerated process of global expansion, leading to the
emergence of an international production system which accounts for a
significant share of international flows of capital, technology, skills and
trade. Today, transnational corporations play an important role in employment
creation by generating employment opportunities in their own operations, by
stimulating employment in related enterprises, and by their catalytic effects
on host country enterprises. The United Nations 1994 World Survey on the Role
of Women in Development emphasized the increasing  direct impact of
transnational corporations on  women's economic opportunities, as employees,
specially in export processing zones, but also, indirectly, as self-employed,
entrepreneurs and consumers.

      International financial institutions such as, The World Bank, The
International Monetary Fund, The International Fund for Agricultural
Development, and the regional development banks and funds are playing, through
their involvement in stabilization and structural adjustment programmes;
development policies, programmes and projects; as well as through their
lending and grants policies, an important role in the definition of domestic
economic and social policies in most developing countries and economies in

      Broad societal changes, including women's access to education and
employment, have helped a growing number of women enter transnational
corporations and international financial institutions. Increasing numbers
women are found in management, but at the lower levels and it is estimated
that it will take years for natural progression to significantly alter numbers
at the top, assuming that there are no gender-specific barriers along the way.
Less subject to political influence and legal challenges, both international
financial institutions and transnational corporations have been able to define
relatively autonomous corporate culture. Political and legal changes for the
advancement of women, which have a direct impact on national organizations,
have had a reduced impact on these international organizations. Today, the
challenge is to define the ways and means necessary to match broader societal
changes affecting women's lives with the interests and dynamics of
international financial institutions and transnational corporations.

II. Objectives

      The main objective of the Expert Group Meeting is to define measures
that will  increase, in a sustainable way, the participation of women as
decision-makers in international financial institutions and transnational

      The specific objectives include:

      1.  To complete an assessment of the trends in and determinants
          of the levels of participation of women managers and executives 
          in these organizations;

      2.  To analysis in terms of determinants, impact, effectiveness and
          limits the main instruments developed by these organizations in
          order to increase women's access to management  and executives

      3.  To address the issue of the critical mass and its applicability 
          in the context of transnational corporations and international
          financial institutions

      4.  To assess the qualitative impact of women managers on corporate
          culture and performance.

      5.  Develop recommendations on the ways and means necessary to be put 
          in place, by these organizations and other actors, that will to
          generate a sustainable process of changes in the composition of
          managers and executives in these organizations.

III. Profile of Participants

      The Expert Group Meeting will be attended by up 10 experts appointed by
the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Governments, organizations of the
United Nations System, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations
will also attend as observers.  The experts will be drawn from a variety of
fields in order to include an international and regional perspectives as well
as research, training and policy-making experiences. The United Nations will
provide travel and daily subsistence allowance for the experts.

IV. Documentation

      The documentation for the meeting will include a paper prepared by the
Division for the Advancement of Women and inputs prepared by the experts on
the various topics to be defined. Observers will also be invited to contribute
inputs from their own perspectives. The Expert Group Meeting will be conducted
in English. The documentation will also be in English.

For further information please contact:

Mr. John Mathiason
Deputy Director
Division for the Advancement of Women
Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development
United Nations
Two United Nations Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10017
Tel: (212) 963 3171/3168
Fax: (212) 963 3463   


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Date last updated: 06 December 1999 by DESA/DAW
Copyright 1999 United Nations