Latin America, online
Corruption is a phenomenon that affects all parts of society. Yet, in very few cases is the link between gender and corruption recognised. This nexus puts women in a vulnerable and disadvantaged position, both in the public and private sectors. Against this background, the Alliance for Integrity conducted a three-part event series aimed at understanding the complex relationship between gender and corruption as a first step towards promoting women's rights and creating a level playing field with equal opportunities for all. Various experts from Latin America discussed key challenges and presented best practices for addressing corruption in relation to gender. The results will help to initiate further action to ensure integrity, equality and a better quality of life through the empowerment and inclusion of women.
Under the headline ‘How does corruption in business affect women?’, the kick-off event aimed to introduce the topic and showcase best practices. Opening the discussion, Mónica Cortes, CEO of Equilátera, stressed the fact that underemployment and informal employment are higher among women than among men. Women hold a lower percentage of management positions and a higher percentage of entry-level jobs which leads to significant gender gaps. As a result, women tend to be more affected by corruption, often of sexual nature, than their male counterparts. To overcome this issue, it is essential that companies incorporate a gender perspective in all their operations. In practice, however, there is still a lack of willingness to address this demand. In addition, safe platforms where women can share their experiences in dealing with corruption and other gender-related challenges are missing. In this context, Sabrina Cejas, Site Compliance for Argentina at Newmont Corporation, highlighted the importance of sharing experiences on the link between gender and corruption among women to learn and support each other. “We need to stand up for women’s visibility in business more strongly. It is of utmost importance to promote inclusive communication and provide training on discrimination and gender-based violence,” stated Betina Azugna, CSR Manager at Grupo Sancor Seguros. In the past, it has proven effective to appoint a gender officer responsible for promoting and monitoring gender equality, but also a clear tone from the top is crucial. “Diversity processes need to be present throughout the company. This must be clearly communicated and exemplified by the CEO,” concluded Lisa Witthohn, Legal Advisor at Transparency International Guatemala.
Following on from the points made during the opening event, the second panel focused on the topic of Sextortion. Using statistics, information and proven best practices, regional experts discussed how to effectively counter the issue. As starting point, Luciana Torchiaro, Regional Counselor for Latin America and the Caribbean at Transparency International, highlighted that sextortion has not yet been sufficiently discussed by anti-corruption and compliance experts.
This might be due to the fact that the term has not yet been clearly defined, little information exists on the subject and there is no established legal framework. “It is therefore even more important to empower women in business and give them the necessary tools to prevent sextortion,” highlighted Noelia De Belder, Senior Attorney at Beccar Varela. As an appropriate tool, she recommended the creation of reporting channels to anonymously report cases and to involve more women in high-level positions to address the issue. Susana Silva Hasembank, Public Policy Integrity Expert, added that it is also crucial to train HR and compliance departments on gender issues and to develop compliance programmes with a gender perspective that recognise sextortion. This can only be put into practice if top management sets a zero-tolerance policy towards sextortion. However, the problem cannot be solved by the private sector alone. It requires not only legal recognition but also the continuous efforts of all relevant actors involved to gather information in order to collectively curb the problem.
The final panel focused on “The Role of Compliance within the Gender Strategy of the Company”. What challenges do compliance officers face in processes related to gender and how can they contribute to gender equality within the company? We discussed these and other questions with Maria Agustina Carbon, Head of Business Conduct and Regulations at Grupo Gire, María Barbara Marcen, Chief Compliance Officer at Baker McKenzie, and Ricardo Jungmann, Director of the Master in Business Law, LLM of the Catholic University of Chile. The main challenge identified was the lack of clarity in companies about the link between gender and corruption. As consequence, more work needs to be done to raise awareness, sensitise the top management and train all staff on integrity and gender issues. This ambitious task can only be accomplished if senior and top management take a leading role and express their commitment to gender justice. Following this, it is advisable to develop comprehensive guidelines and a code of conduct to guide staff in gender-specific issues.
There is still much work to be done on the nexus between gender and corruption. The results of the dialogue series have laid a foundation that now needs to be followed up. In doing so, the commitment of all stakeholders involved is essential to sustainably integrate gender issues into compliance efforts. If you would like to read more about the link between gender and corruption, we invite you to visit our topic page.
Author: Nuria Pérez González