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MetLife CEO Appears at UN Women’s Empowerment Event

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What You Need to Know

  • The panel was part of Target Gender Equality Event.
  • The event gave businesses a way to support UN efforts to support women.
  • MetLife was one of four top-level sponsors.

Executives “at the top of the house” must drive advancement of gender equality, said Michel Khalaf, the CEO of MetLife Inc., who spoke Tuesday in a virtual panel discussion at the UN Global Compact’s Target Gender Equality Live Conference.

The UN Global Compact gives businesses a chance to support United Nations’ projects.

But “it is crucial that we build grassroots support across the organization as well,” Khalaf said, according to a written version of his remarks. “In my experience, the best ideas come from teams who can openly challenge the status quo and feel accountable for progress.”

Khalaf appeared on the panel with representatives from the United Nations and executives from the Gap, Natura and other companies.

The UN and Women

The United Nations adopted “Women’s Empowerment Principles: Equality Means Business,” in 2011. The 16-page document, which is available in languages ranging from Chinese to Turkish, starts with the principle “Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality.”

Another principle is, “Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women.”

This year, the UN Global Compact organized the gender equality virtual event to support International Women’s Day and the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women.

MetLife was one of four top-level corporate sponsors for the gender equality event. The other three were the Project Management Institute, the Coca-Cola Co. and EY.

MetLife and Inclusion

Khalaf, who became MetLife’s CEO in 2019, has spoken often in the past about the difficulties his own sister faced with getting a suitable education.

MetLife has been posting LinkedIn and YouTube videos promoting the importance of inclusiveness for years, and it posted several new videos this week.

In a LinkedIn video posted this week, for example, the company asserted that companies focused on inclusion are three times more likely to be high-performing and eight times more likely to be innovative.

MetLife announced Monday that it was giving Cindy Pace, the company’s global chief diversity and inclusion officer, a reporting line that leads directly to Khalaf.

The new direct report structure underscores MetLife’s commitment to embedding diversity, equity and inclusion in its business strategy, the company said.

On Tuesday, MetLife released preliminary results from surveys of full-time U.S. workers that were conducted in April 2020 and this past January. In April, the company said, 68% of the men surveyed and 60% of the women surveyed reported that their financial health was holding up reasonably well.

In January, the company said, about 69% of the men surveyed said they felt financially healthy, but only 53% of the women said they felt financially healthy.

“This trend holds across mental, physical and social health as well,” MetLife said. “In every category, women in the workforce say they have experienced deterioration, while men in the workforce say they are holding steady or slightly improving.”

Khalaf said business leaders and employers can and should adopt policies and programs that will improve women’s financial health.

Michel Khalaf (Photo: UN Global Compact)

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