Westminster International University in Tashkent (WIUT) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) today held a business dialogue “Gender Equality in Workplaces in Uzbekistan”.
The event aimed to foster conversation on the prevalence, perceptions, and attitudes towards gender equality in the workplace in Uzbekistan. The dialogue also contributed to identifying opportunities for the private sector to promote the empowerment of women in a matter that is comprehensive, grounded in evidence, and based on human rights.
The event started with the opening remarks from Bakhrom Mirkasimov, Rector of WIUT, Mahmudjon Parpiev, Deputy Chair of the Senate Committee on Women and Gender and Yu Yu, Representative of UNFPA in Uzbekistan. In their remarks, speakers highlighted the importance of the subject and supported the interest and willingness of the companies to promote inclusive workplaces.
The keynote presentation was made by Victoria Levinskaya, Principal Investigator of the research “Gender Equality in Workplaces in Uzbekistan” led by WIUT with the support of UNFPA. The survey was conducted earlier this year and engaged 23 companies and 1,303 employees sharing their experiences and reflections on the topic. Overall, the research found evidence of positive developments in the area of gender equality in the workplace, both at the national and company level. Many companies who participated in the study have already put in place policies and mechanisms to address discrimination, harassment and violence against women. The survey also found evidence that social and gender norms continue to have a significant impact on the employment of women in Uzbekistan. Most participating companies recognized the need to take account of how factors from outside the workplace affect employment and offered tools for employees to combine work and family duties, such as flexible and remote working.
The survey also discovered that issues of harassment and violence are hidden. While HR managers did not note any cases of violence and harassment in their companies during interviews, employees indicated that such incidents had taken place over the last 12 months. Female employees in younger age groups and those without formal partners tended to experience cases of physical violence and sexual harassment more frequently. Absence of reporting procedures and mechanisms, a lack of awareness of how to use them together with the sensitive nature of the subject, may be possible causes of under-reporting.
The presentation of the research findings was followed by a panel discussion with panellists sharing their reflections on the study's results, and exchanging best practices and plans for promoting gender equality and eliminating gender-based violence. Companies reflected on their understanding that investing in women’s empowerment is not only a good thing to do, but it is also a business-smart thing to do, helping them to improve staff retention, innovation, and access to talent and new markets. Panellists also noted that Uzbekistan has achieved substantial progress in expanding opportunities for women and girls in recent years, including through legislative and policy reforms. However, additional measures are needed to advance further and protect their rights and interests, especially in creating an enabling environment for women in workplaces.
The closing remarks were made by Munir Mammadzade, Resident Coordinator a.i., UN Uzbekistan, who emphasized the commitment of the UN team in Uzbekistan to working with businesses and supporting them and accelerating action for gender equality and elimination of violence.