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Meredith Turner
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UN Initiatives for Women and the SIOP UN Committee

SIOP UN Committee

The United Nations has focused on important issues related to women for over 60 years, and a UN entity, UN Women, focuses exclusively on issues for women and girls. These issues are extensive and include themes such as equal access to education, ending all violence and discrimination, decent work, and economic empowerment for women globally. High-level meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women are held annually with UN member states from around the world to set goals and assess progress. Many NGOs at the United Nations assist with these initiatives.


UN initiatives for women are also very much a part of the UN’s recently announced Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Empowerment of women and girls is seen as an essential part of the SDGs, and an overarching SDG goal is to end all gender inequality globally by 2030. UN Women themes aligned with the SDGs include 50/50 by 2030 and Empower Women, Empower Humanity.


Related to these efforts at the United Nations, the field of I-O psychology has, for decades, been at the forefront of research and science-based practice on understanding and addressing issues related to women and work. Although much of this focus has been on corporations and in western business settings, there are many aspects of I-O research and practice that can be extended to assist with broader societal issues related to women and work globally.


A number of SIOP UN Committee efforts at the UN have focused on important issues related to women at work. These include SIOP UN committee members leading initiatives, teaming with other SIOP members, collaborating with other psychological disciplines, and working with other NGOs and UN areas that are not psychologically based but who may benefit from our expertise. Below are a few examples of these efforts.


One area of focus for the SIOP UN Committee related to women’s initiatives is to submit panel presentations for the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Last year’s panel was the first one that SIOP conducted at CSW. It was an extension of a SIOP conference session on how I-O expertise could help with UN initiatives for women. The theme of the 2017 CSW is: “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work.” Like last year, a panel of I-O experts on women and leadership will be presenting as a parallel session. SIOP UN Committee member Lise Saari has led these panels along with SIOP members Karen Lyness, Katina Sawyer, Virginia Schein, and Anna Marie Valerio as expert panel members. Information on the UN Commission on the Status of Women can be found here: http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw61-2017


Another contribution by the SIOP UN Committee is to submit formal written statements to upcoming Commission on the Status of Women meetings. Written statements have been submitted the last several years with SIOP UN members collaborating with other psychological disciplines at the UN. One statement was led by Mary O’Neill Berry, a SIOP member with the NGO International Association of Applied Psychology, along with Lise Saari, and with Karen Lyness contributing. 


The SIOP UN committee has also made contributions by becoming a member of other NGOs that are not psychologically based but that could benefit from our expertise. By joining an NGO focused solely on women, the SIOP UN Committee has been able to add I-O psychology voice to issues. Examples include providing insights on topics related to women at work and participating in efforts such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.  


Another focus area of the SIOP UN Committee is working directly with UN staff to help them see the advantages of psychological insights. For example, Lori Foster of the SIOP UN Committee, along with Maya Shankar, a SIOP member, spearheaded an initiative at the UN to make the case that behavioral insights should be part of UN efforts. The report on this effort highlights a case study on gender equality with psychological insights and measurements. The report can be found here: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/development-impact/behavioural-insights-at-the-united-nations--achieving-agenda-203.html


For more information on UN Women, please see http://www.unwomen.org/en. There are also opportunities to work directly with UN Women as an expert to assist on their initiatives. The following website allows experts on gender issues to signal their interest in collaborating with UN Women to achieve gender equality around the world: http://unwomen.unssc.org/users/registerExpert


Although I-O psychology influence at the UN on issues related to women is still in its formative stages, the hope is that our collective efforts will help increase awareness and understanding of where the field of I-O psychology can help. The ultimate goal is to have I-O psychology help inform, shape, support, and address UN initiatives related to women and work.

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