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Five Minutes with Stephanie Dei, UN Women National Coordinator – WE EMPOWER Programme ​of the EU, UN Women and ILO

Stephanie Dei works for UN Women as the National Coordinator in Canada for the WE EMPOWER programme of the European Union, UN Women and International Labour Organization, encouraging deeper action in the private and public sector to advance women’s economic empowerment in Canada. Stephanie is the Non-Executive Director at global frontier markets risk firm DaMina Advisors and Vice President, Finance for the Board of Organization of Women in International Trade – Toronto Chapter. Stephanie holds a BA Honors in Political Science and Law from Carleton University, Canada, and an MA in International Studies and Diplomacy from SOAS, University of London. Stephanie is a mother of four energetic and empowered kids. As proud allies of the #FlexForEmpowerment campaign, we caught up with Stephanie recently to discuss the initiative and what inspired it. 


Can you start by describing what the WE EMPOWER Programme does, and what your role is there?

I am the National Coordinator for the WE EMPOWER Programme in Canada. In this role, I help to set and implement activities for the year, liaise with the public/private sector and civil society to pull key themes and speakers to participate in our multistakeholder dialogues, advocate for companies to join the WEPs, and I liaise with the European Union delegation in Ottawa, UN Women headquarters in New York and our International Labour Organization counterpart in New York to ensure our programme in Canada is in line with larger global priorities.

The WE EMPOWER programme is a joint initiative of the European Union, UN Women and the International Labour Organization that focuses on responsible business conduct in G7 Countries. The EU funded programme is operating in Canada, Japan and the USA and we convene conversations about gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in the workplace, marketplace and community. Our overarching global programme theme is the Future of Work – we are looking at how the workplace is changing and how this will impact women’s economic empowerment. As part of this work, we encourage the use of the Women’s Empowerment Principles to help guide further change and action. 

When did you first realize that you wanted to work in the women’s advancement sector and how did you get into this line of work?

I only began to notice gender differences in work experiences after I started having children. This really hit me because we have been taught from childhood that we are all equal. We go through the education system and enter into the workforce with this belief of equality and equity and then the baby comes and it is apparent that the workplace has not evolved with the same values of equality and equity that we are taught in school. Issues around equal pay, work-life balance and women in leadership have sadly set the tone for many women’s working experiences.

I was a new mother reconciling the realities of balancing work life with family and I came across a posting for a UN Women role in Canada through social media.  As a student of political science with a very keen interest to work in international relations I eagerly read through the terms of reference and agreed with everything that was being asked of for the role and applied without hesitation. It was one of those moments where you feel like this job was tailored for you. The rest is history.

“I only began to notice gender differences in work experiences after I started having children. This really hit me because we have been taught from childhood that we are all equal.”

What are the Women’s Empowerment Principles?

The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) are set of 7 principles set up in 2010 by UN Women and UN Global Compact and serve as a guide for businesses on how to empower women. The WEPs are informed by international labour and human rights standards and grounded in the recognition that businesses have a stake in, and a responsibility for, gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Today, there are currently more than 2,700 signatories to the WEPs globally. The WEPs cover 7 main areas of change:

  1. High-Level Corporate Leadership
  2. Treat all women and men fairly at work without discrimination
  3. Employee health, well-being and safety
  4. Education, training for gender equality
  5. Enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices
  6. Community initiatives and advocacy
  7. Measurement and reporting

The #FlexForEmpowerment campaign started Septemeber 2020, what inspired it? What is the aim?

Flex for Empowerment is an online engagement campaign designed to bring awareness to the Women’s Empowerment Principles and showcase good practices of women’s economic empowerment in the workplace, marketplace and community. We kicked off the campaign during gender equality week and have had an overwhelming response and as a result, extended the campaign to the end of March 2020. We are encouraging men and women to share good practices of gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in the workplace, marketplace and community. 

What would you say has been a highlight of the #FlexForEmpowerment campaign so far? How can people get involved?

The highlight of the campaign has been seeing companies rally behind the WEPs and share some of their good practices to support gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. I have been so encouraged by the enthusiasm of our allies to flex for empowerment and also by reading about new initiatives in the workplace, marketplace and community to support women’s economic empowerment —  this has given me hope that we are on the right track. You can get involved by becoming an ally here and start flexing for empowerment by:

  • Signing the Women’s Empowerment Principles
  • Host an event to showcase your best practices and policies for women’s empowerment in the workplace
  • Take to social media and tag @Empower_Women with your strongest policy and workplace policies
  • Write a story to highlight workplace changes and the impact in your community and share on under Stories
  • Send out a press release to your network/stakeholders to let them know what your office is doing for gender equality and encourage others to #FlexForEmpowerment
  • Create a Podcast, Blog or Video and share with our team about how your organization flexes for women’s economic empowerment

Complete this sentence: Gender equality and women’s economic empowerment are crucial because…

we need to strive for a future that works for all!