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The Gender Equality Seal Programme

The UNDP Gender Equality Seal launched in 2009 with a pilot program in Latin America, recognizes organizations for meeting specific standards to promote gender equality and empower women. The UNDP works with governments to create the framework of the Seals, which are rooted in International Labour Organization conventions, the Women’s Empowerment Principles, and human rights and sustainable business practices. The UNDP’s involvement in the program once the Seal has been developed depends on the country, and ranges from complete involvement in training advisors and auditors and working with companies to get certified, to only a strategic involvement as advisors when a government takes over the implementation of the program and incorporates it into a ministry or a department.

Levels of Certification:

Not all National Certifications programmes have multilevel certifications. However, the base model at a regional level establishes the following levels:

Bronze Seal – Symbolizes commitment to close gaps and promote gender equality (complying with more than 60% of the established benchmarks)
Silver Seal – Symbolizes effectively implementing actions to close gender gaps (complying with 70% to 80% of the established benchmarks)
Gold Seal – Symbolizes the effective and systematic closure of gender gaps (complying with more than 80% of the established benchmarks)

Assessment Criteria:

  • Organization Profile and Productivity: Facts about organizations related to size, industry, location, and financial metrics
  • Personnel Profile: Employee perspective and experience related to presence/absence of women
  • Recruitment, Selection, and Hiring: Evaluate actions from gender perspective to identify gaps
  • Professional Development and Performance: Perspective and experience of employees related to ratio or distribution of women across different segments of the organization
  • Remuneration: Alignment with fair wages and principles of equal pay for work of equal value
  • Prevention of Harassment in the Workplace: Examines measures (or lack thereof) to prevent incidents of sexual harassment, instances or cases, and how they are resolved
  • Work-Life Balance with Shared Social Responsibilities: Assess work-life balance policies and if they result in equal opportunity
  • Communication: Measure degree of gender equality in internal and external communication
  • Supply chains (newly added pillar): Inclusion of gender sensitive practices among the supply chain

Regardless of the country, the basic assessment dimensions and topics stay the same, but the requirements and further diagnosis instruments in the nationally owned Seals can be tailored to each country (e.g. if domestic violence rates are higher than typical, the certification can include additional questions on this issue). Companies that are located or operate in a country with a Seal program can apply for certification, as well as these companies’ individual business units and lines. Multinational companies (and those companies that are located in a country without the National Certification Programme) will be able to apply for a UNDPs award through the GES for Multi National Corporations (GES4MNC) programme, which is currently being piloted.

Certification Process:

  1. Communicate commitment to gender equality, establish a gender equality committee, and train senior management and staff
  2. Companies conduct an internal self-assessment and staff survey
  3. Based on the self-assessment and survey results, companies develop and execute an action plan that works towards reducing inequalities
  4. Following the implementation of the action plan, companies apply for third-party assessment and verification to achieve a certificate
  5. Following certification, companies monitor ongoing process and work to maintain or advance to the next Seal level

The self-assessment and staff survey phase typically takes 15 days to one month, but it can take as long as six months if a company does not have the data assembled. The implementation period typically takes from 8 to 24 months.

Data including a staff survey is submitted to a confidential and secure online platform called Equality@Work. The microdata entered is not shared with anyone, but companies and UNDP advisors have access to the aggregated data. The government receives a final diagnosis report with aggregated data from the analysed sectors, but this report does not identify individual companies. Third-party auditors are determined by the government, either opting for a normalized model (with a central standardized auditing body) or a national standard model (there is no centralized auditing body and UNDP can recommend and train auditors).

Recertification Process:Each country has different rules for recertification, but typically, the certifications last for two to three years and a mid-term internal audit is required to ensure companies are active and making improvements after certification. If a company applies for recertification but they have not advanced, they are allowed to stay at the same level for six months to make changes before reapplying. Some countries allow this process to continue, others will take away the Seal if this process occurs two times in a row. Companies can also lose their Seal if they are seen to be violating labour rights or legal standards.

To read more about the Gender Equality Seal Programme, click here.