International Gender Champions & UN Women Joint Panel Discussion on Moving the Needle: Family-Friendly Policies in the United Nations System


The IGC and UN Women have been delighted to collaborate on a joint event on October 12th and this week have launched a social media campaign, #ChampionsForParentalLeave, to advocate for equal and sufficient parental leave for all parents.

Family-friendly policies are critical to meet the needs of all employees and advance a progressive and effective organisational culture that harnesses the talent of people from diverse backgrounds. Parental leave in particular, is vital to shift the care burden away from women, and at the same time, reshape outdated norms and attitudes so that everyone has choices about their careers and family lives.

In March of 2019 UN Women launched the Enabling Environments Guidelines and its Supplementary Guidelines to support the implementation of the Secretary-General’s System-wide Strategy on Gender Parity. The guidelines provide practical recommendations and guidance to develop an inclusive workplace that allows all employees to thrive and contribute their full skills, experiences, and perspectives.

 In June 2020, the International Gender Champions launched a ‘Gender Champions Challenge’ to promote the policies, practices and behaviours that create an inclusive and enabling environment and uphold the IGC’s core values.  Between June and October, members are sharing ‘what works’ and identifying sticky floors and glass ceilings that hold back progress.  Parental leave is an area where many of our members have made great progress and yet there is still a long road to travel for truly transformative gender norms for most of us.

The event enabled Champions to come together with civil society experts to discuss why parental leave policies are so important, and what needs to happen next to transform gender norms within the UN system and organisations more broadly.

Watch the recording of the event including the #ChampionsForParentalLeave launch video below!

Ambassador Olof Skoog, Head of the EU Delegation to the UN in New York opened the event by sharing his personal experience and support for shared parental leave, reminding us that “it sends a powerful signal of equality and equal rights to our children”.  UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka updated the audience on the progress made thus far on implementing the Guidelines and explained that parental leave policies should  incorporate six months standardised parental leave as it is “the right thing to do, the equitable thing to do, it is the smart thing to do and of course it is a healthy thing to do”.

Qatari Ambassador to the United Nations in New York Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al-Thani provided insights into the successful gender progressive work in Qatar as well as the work being carried out by the Group of Friends for Gender Parity. Founder of Promundo Gary Barker addressed the important role men have in progressing gender-equitable policies and the significance of redefining gender norms both at home and in the workplace.

Wafa Abboud of Open Society Foundations highlighted the progressive work being done within the foundation and  encouraged gender parity through practical steps regardless of gender or geography. Lastly, author and podcast host of 'The Fix' Ms. Michelle King highlighted that we must move away from old-fashioned, outdated policies in the workplace, in particular with regard to leadership and how we can lead in a better, inclusive, and psychologically safe way.

The event was concluded with a Q&A in which the speakers encouraged an intersectional approach to parental leave policies; ensuring we create and implement policies that account for older parents, non-biological parents, and parents from the LGBTQIA+ community. To conclude, we can only achieve global gender parity in our work lives if we also address gender-inclusive and approaches to our employees’ home lives.

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