SDG #5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Sustainable Development Goals Blog Series

On January 1st, 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development officially came into force. Over the next 15 years, with these 17 goals, countries will combine efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change. In this article we aim to familiarize you with SDG #5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, and what actions your organization can take to achieve this goal.

By Linda van den Breul - 24 August 2017


The fifth SDG is about eliminating all forms of discrimination, violence and harmful practices against women and girls. In addition, it is about recognizing and valuing unpaid care and domestic work, ensure women’s participation and equal opportunities and ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive rights. Promoting gender equality and empowering women is a stand-alone goal and it is also part of many other SDGs, where it can be both an objective and a part of the solution for these SDGs.


Positive impact on the economy
Besides that gender equality is a fundamental human right, empowering women and girls is essential for economic growth. We are already improving, as research groups estimate that the US economy would be 11% smaller today if women’s employment patterns would not have changed in the past 30 years. But there is still a long way to go. Goldman Sachs, an investment bank, calculated that eliminating the employment gap between man and women would add 9% to the US GDP and 13% to that of the Eurozone.

Impact on businesses
Gender equality could also enhance business performance. There are several studies showing a positive relationship between company performance and a more diverse board, for example on returns, margins and stock market performances. One of the reasons is that diversity of thinking and opinions is essential for the success of a business. Also an improved reputation is a frequently heard argument for companies to support more gender equality and women empowerment.

Attract and retain talent
Promoting gender equality is also key to attract and retain talent, which can improve productivity. Today more women than men are enrolling in Western universities, making women a vital talent pool. Research also shows that employees, both men and women, are less willing to switch jobs if they have a positive perceptions of an organization's “diversity climate”.


Solutions to keep diversity in the workforce
Many companies are confronted with losing productivity as a result of losing talented female staff. This problem usually gets worse when losing women in the ranks leading to executive leadership positions. Solutions that combat this problem in practice include more flexible work policies, mentoring and more gender engagement. Also equal pay can contribute, which is what Jean-Pascal Tricoire, CEO of the French corporate Schneider Electric, is doing after he had announced to eliminate the gender pay gap for all its 150,000 employees by 2017. A good starting point is creating awareness of gender equality and investigating your own HR data and existing policies.

Empowering women in the value chain
Also at multinationals we see that improving gender equality goes hand in hand with tackling business challenges. An example where a global leader tackles supply chain problems by empowering women comes from Unilever. Hindustan Unilever, the Indian subsidiary of the global consumer goods giant, had trouble accessing the small villages outside its distribution network in India. Their solution was project Shakti, an initiative to create a female entrepreneurial network. Unilever provides training in entrepreneurial skills and teaches the women about the Company’s products. Since women are often the primary purchaser and consumer of Unilever’s products this made a lot of sense. Currently this network consists of 72,000 micro-entrepreneurs making an income by actively promoting and distributing Unilever products. Other ways to empower women could be to support the development of marketable skills, assisting women in finding and retaining jobs and supporting equal social and economic rights.

The role of calculative attachment in the relationship between diversity climate and retention, David M. Kaplan, Jack W. Wiley and Carl P. Maertz Jr. (

Sustainable Development Goals Blog Series

This blog is part of the Sustainable Development Blog Series: a blog series that highlights the 17 SDGs one by one on a biweekly basis. In these blogs you will find more information about each SDG, why it is important for your organisation to contribute to the achievement of it, and specific examples of how you can do that.

More information?

For more information about the Sustainable Development Goals and what your organisation can do to contribute, please contact Anne Huibrechtse-Truijens via / +31882882071

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