Business for Gender Equality Coalition Biz4GE for a Gender Responsive COVID-19 Action


Our response is framed around three objectives. Helping countries to prepare for and protect people from the pandemic and its impacts, to respond during the outbreak, and to recover from the economic and social impacts in the months to come. For most countries, these phases will happen simultaneously and are inter- linked. How a country prepares for and responds to the pandemic, for example, will directly impact the type of recovery that will be necessary.

Alongside with UN sister entities, country partners, and civil society, UNDP will ensure gender equality is at the heart of our COVID-19 frontline objectives, priorities and service delivery


Why a gender-responsive COVID-19 action matters to the private sector

The COVID-19 crisis will hit the economy as a whole but will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable groups such as the informal workers, domestic workers, migrant persons, SMEs and women-owned business, intensifying existing economic inequalities and vulnerabilities.

The costs of the response (e.g. self-isolation, social distancing measures, school closures, etc.) are not equally distributed, and private sector responses must take this into account. Economic consequences will be far-reaching and will deepen existing inequalities, including in gender inequalities since:

Women are overrepresented in hardest hit sectors (e.g. women’s share of flight attendants and travel agents is more than 70%, 56% of entry level positions in the insurance industry and more than 68% in the apparel industry globally1 ).

1 McKinsey & Company (2020), IFC (2014), OECD (2019), ILO (2020), Deloitte (2019).

Women are more affected by poverty and extreme poverty than men (i.e. 122 women aged 25-34 for every 100 men of the same age group live in extreme poverty 2 ).

2 UN Women (2018), Turning promises into action: gender equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Women are overrepresented in MSMEs either as owners or workers (i.e. there are roughly 9.3 million formal women-owned SMEs globally which is close to a third of all formal SMEs 3 ), and are deeply affected by informality, especially domestic workers and migrant women, lacking access to safety nets and social protection (i.e. 92.1% of women in developing countries are in informal employment compared to 87.5% of men 4 ).

3 FC Enterprise Finance Gap Assessment Database (2011). The largest concentration of women-owned SMEs per 100,000 women is in Europe and Central Asia and East Asia and the Pacific countries.

4 ILO Women and men in the informal economy: A statistical picture 2018.

Women bear the burden of unpaid care, since they perform globally 76.2% of total hours of unpaid care work, more than three times as much as men 5.

5 ILO Care Work and Care Jobs 2018.

Red flags are alerting the world since intimate partner violence and domestic violence has increased dramatically over the course of total lockdowns (in many cases of upwards of 25% 6 ), while crowded homes, substance abuse, limited access to services and reduced peer support are exacerbating these conditions 7 . When it comes to the COVID-19 effect over MSMEs and Women-Owned Enterprises, who employ one out of three people in microenterprises and 2 out of 3 in SMEs in OECD countries 8 , is important to acknowledge the varied challenges they face under regular circumstances and the intensified pains they suffer due to the COVID-19 crisis.

6 In countries with reporting systems in place. United Nations (2020), Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women. 7 On 5 April, the Secretary-General called for a global ceasefire and an end to all violence everywhere so that we can focus our attention and resources on stopping this pandemic. United Nations (2020), Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women. 8 OECD (2019), OECD SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook 2019.

The cash crunch triggered by COVID-19 lockdowns could potentially accelerate the risk of bankruptcy of SMEs, since the median small business holds only 27 cash buffer days in reserve 9 and the formal MSME finance gap is estimated at 5.2 trillion dollars globally in 2018, while the formal women-owned MSMEs finance gap at 1.7 trillion dollars10.

9 JP Morgan Institute, Cash is King: Flows, balances and buffer days, 2016. Sample of 600,000 small businesses. 10 IFC Enterprise Finance Gap Assessment Database (2011).

Women face multiple financial and non-financial barriers to access financing due to biased credit processes, lack of collaterals, unfavourable lending policies, lack of working capital, reduced social networks, higher risk aversion and higher financial illiteracy, impacting negatively their possibility to access the financial and tax relief and stimulus adopted by countries in response to the COVID-19 crisis (e.g. access to credit to face liquidity constraints, debt restructuring schemes, loans to fund wage reductions, etc.)11. It is estimated that 38% of companies across the globe have their employees working from home due to mandatory or company-wide arrangements12.

COVID-19 is changing the way we work and is taking the toll on people’s well-being and especially over women.

11 Ibíd. 12 Mercer (2020), Business COVID-19 Survey. 1,871 respondents as of 04 April 2020.

Both mental health issues and anxiety are on the rise. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 75% of people say they feel more socially isolated, 67% report higher stress, 57% are feeling greater anxiety, and 53% feel more emotionally exhausted13. Both men and women have fears of the future and feel uncertain about their career pathways, adding new ingredients to the emotional COVID-19 distress cocktail, which poses redundant effects over productivity and competitiveness of businesses.

13 Smith, R. (2020), How CEOs can support employee mental health in a crisis, Harvard Business Review, May 2020.

Women bear the double burden of care responsibilities, and school closures have put additional strain and demand on women and girls since (i.e. 1.52 billion students 87% and over 60 million teachers are now home as COVID-19 school closures expand)14. There is a blurred line between work life and family life especially to those doing work from home, which in consequence is deepening already existing inequalities in the gender division of labour.

14 United Nations (2020), Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women.

The risk of Intimate Partner Violence and domestic violence has intensified during lockdowns, increasing the risk exposure especially to women as mentioned before, affecting negatively labour productivity and performance due to the emotional and physical distress caused.

The COVID-19 Global Private Sector Facility

The COVID-19 Global Private Sector Facility is a mechanism for coordinated action and global transfer of knowledge to enable economic actors to adapt rapidly to the COVID-19 economy, that:

  • Maintains open and robust lines of communication and flow of data.
  • Establishes transnational connections and networks between actors where appropriate.
  • Aids replication of successful models.
  • Identifies common needs across countries and develops a global coordinated solution.
  • Works to address issues arising in transnational systems that need coordination across disparate actors.
  • Maintains a “global” perspective and identifies critical learning.
  • Acts as an advocate to its peer organizations operating at the global level.

UNDP Covid-19 for Inclusive, Diverse & Gendered Business Action

The BIZ4GE COALITION for a gender-responsive business action is a platform that brings together private sector partners in response to the COVID-19 crisis.


The main purpose is to safeguard the resilience and viability of the private sector ensuring that it is critical to:

  • Address structural barriers affecting women
  • Prevent the exacerbation of the gender inequalities due to the COVID-19 crisis
  • Preserve and advance the SDGs

Government-Business Sector Dialogue is required urgently at three levels


  • Connects, Catalyse and Facilitates Government-Business sector dialogue and
  • Supports the deployment of public and private sector economic recovery policies and programmes

The UNDP COVID-19 Business for Gender Equality Coalition Biz4GE

A failure to adopt a gender responsive COVID-19 action will have an impact on the effects of the crisis and future recovery, beyond the specific effects on women, since this is a multidimensional crisis (i.e. Health crisis, care crisis and economic crisis).

That is why the Biz4GE Coalition for a Gender Responsive COVID-19 Action is a platform that brings together private sector partners in response to the COVID-19 crisis, that functions as catalyser, connector and channel of government-private sector dialogue.

The main purpose of the UNDP COVID-19 Gender Service Offer for the Private Sector is to safeguard the resilience and viability of the private sector, ensuring structural barriers affecting women are addressed to prevent the exacerbation of gender inequalities due to the COVID-19 crisis, in order to preserve and advance the SDGs.

The UNDP COVID-19 Business for Gender Equality Coalition Biz4GE recognizes that private sector companies have varied capabilities, and that all contributions, either financial or non-financial, large or small, are important. These contributions range from philanthropic donations linked to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies, to the development of catalytic support in response to the crisis such as shifting production lines or investing in R&D, through to the development and/or acceleration of triple-impact business models.
The Biz4GE Coalition is linked to the SDG Country Support Platforms, which are national engines of transformation bringing together innovation, smart public policies and investment tools, in order to harness collective intelligence and action to accelerate SDG progress. A gender responsive private sector COVID-19 action recognises that the COVID-crisis has a profound socio-economic impact over people and economic activity in general, but in particular over highly vulnerable groups and especially over women; and also acknowledged that an immediate response is both a moral obligation and a matter of economic survival.

Immediate gender responsive business action is required on three spheres along the three tracks (i.e. prepare, respond, recover):


Protecting employees and contractors in the workplace.


Protecting income and jobs and supporting business continuity of the weakest links of the supply chain, especially MSMEs and Women-Owned Business (marketplace).


Sharing solutions with the community in which they operate in order to safeguard their licenses to operate.



Protect Value Chains



UNDP plays a central role in the COVID-19 response since we have been appointed by the UN Secretary General as the lead-agency for the COVID-19 socio economic recovery. From this perspective UNDP accounts for a unique capacity to:

  • Connect a wide range of public, private and non-state actors,
  • Catalyse financial and non-financial contributions maximizing the impact of both public and private efforts, and
  • Channel financial and non-financial contributions in the most efficient and effective way, maximizing final impact and social return. UNDP’s COVID-19 Private Sector Gender Offer is grounded on a triple-impact gender responsive model where all companies, UNDP and societies win.

UNDP is uniquely positioned to support a
gender-responsive COVID-19 action

  • A worldwide presence in 170 countries and territories, which gives us the ability to address the scale of COVID-19 needs globally.
  • Our role as SDG integrators leveraged by our Global Policy Network connecting UNDP’s 17,000-strong workforce, country platforms in 50 countries.
  • We leverage the strengths and capabilities of business on behalf of a better, viable and sustainable world.
  • We have more than a decade of experience supporting the private sector in the advancement of gender equality and women’s empowerment in their workplaces, marketplaces and communities with the Gender Equality Seal for Private Sector.
  • We provide a concrete way to engage with a trusted UN partner with actions in the workplace, marketplace and community in response to COVID-19 and we facilitate principles-based business management towards the achievement of the SDGs.

Gains for companies

Protect the human capital of today and of the future, promote a resilient and sustainable business environment, increased reputation, improved customer perception.

Gains for unpd

We leverage resources and capabilities, we reach new audiences, together we build a safer world, together we shield SDG progress.

Gains for societies

lnequalities are not exacerbated by the crisis, promote resilient communities and long-term sustainable development.


UNDP COVID-19 Business for Gender Equality Coalition

Helping countries to prepare for and protect people from the pandemic and its impacts, to respond during the outbreak, and to recover from the economic and social impacts.

The economic impacts of COVID-19 and Gender Inequality

This briefing note seeks to guarantee the integration of gender equality and women’s empowerment into the three inter-linked policy areas.

Shared responsibilities in the workplace

The expansion of liberties and opportunities to all persons, is the ultimate goal that the UNDP promotes within the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

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