Women´s empowerment principles: A Strategic Public-Private Partnership as a way of Empowering Women?

Freja Marie Gaare Larsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) were launched on International Women’s Day in 2010. The ambition of empowering women through strategic corporate behavior signifies the ever tighter embrace between the United Nations and the corporate sector, where public partners are gradually becoming subject to private sector discourses such as efficiency and performance, and corporations are increasingly held accountable for socially irresponsible behavior. This Thesis explores the WEPs as a form of public-private (policy) partnership between two UN agencies and 594 signatory companies and considers the extent to which the WEPs can be used in promoting women’s empowerment. By paring public-private partnership theory with that of Feminism, two theoretical approaches which are seldom aligned, it is the hope to bring about a new perspective on how to facilitate women’s empowerment internationally through a rather strict business rationale. It is argued that that the WEPs as a Transformational Partnership have the ability to promote the WEPs agenda. However, it is found that the voluntary nature of the partnership limits the extent to which companies genuinely engages in the ambition of empowering women, and also, despite strong UN commitment WEPs, there remains a certain degree of skepticism amongst the partners. The reporting mechanism of the WEPs is questioned, but it is also illustrated how the message of empowering women seems to have stimulated a more conscious corporate mindset which might benefit business as well as women globally in the future. As a final note, a set of strategic opportunities for the WEPs is offered, and intended as inspiration for interested WEPs signatories and UN partners, but could also serve as part of a potentially wider research agenda.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2013
Number of pages111