UNITED NATIONS DIVISION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN Aide-Memoire Expert Group Meeting WOMEN AND ECONOMIC DECISION-MAKING IN INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS AND TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATIONS 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 Action. 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 world. 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 transition. 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 corporations. 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 levels; 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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