Today, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) along with BSR and the Oak Foundation released a new report to help the private sector build effective strategies for women’s economic empowerment.
“Companies are in a unique position to bring about extraordinary change for women, not only through philanthropic giving, but by mobilizing their business assets — their products, brand, people and investments,” said ICRW’s Katherine Fritz, director of global health, who is leading this work. “However, to achieve real and sustainable change for both women and business, companies need to address the underlying conditions and systematic factors affecting women’s economic advancement,” added Fritz.
Amidst growing awareness that women’s economic empowerment is essential to economic growth, human progress and business success, companies have collectively invested more than $300 million and launched dozens of programs to support women’s economic advancement. While these efforts have achieved significant results, much progress remains to be made. Around the world, women earn approximately 77 percent of what men earn. Women also face job restrictions in 100 countries — they’re barred from working certain factory jobs in 41 countries and they cannot get a job without permission from their husbands in 18 countries.
Yet when women are economically empowered — when they have the knowledge, tools and power to make decisions for themselves — they raise healthier, better-educated families, and entire economies prosper. Studies show that women reinvest upward from 90 percent of their income into health, nutrition, and the education of their families, triple the value of what men invest. Further, McKinsey data reveals that if women participated in the economy equally to men, it would add as much as $28 trillion (26 percent) to the annual global GDP by 2025. “With nearly one billion women projected to enter the global economy over the next decade, investing in the empowerment of women is critical to spur innovation, productivity and market growth,” explained Fritz.
The new report builds on research previously conducted by ICRW and Dalberg Global Development Advisors, which provides a blueprint for companies to build effective women’s empowerment strategies through a holistic and integrated approach — a path that considers the broader conditions necessary for women’s advancement and includes gender considerations across the entire company. This approach includes eight essential building blocks: access to equitable and safe employment; education and training; access to and control over economic resources and opportunities; access to and control over reproductive health and family formation; social protection and childcare; freedom from the risk of violence; voice in society and policy influence; and freedom of movement.
In this new report, ICRW and BSR describe how each of the building blocks is essential to designing and implementing successful women’s empowerment initiatives in the private sector and provide concrete examples of how they can be applied to four industry sectors — information and communications technology, healthcare, financial services and consumer products. The report provides insights gathered from interviews with ten multinational companies who are engaged in advancing women’s economic empowerment as well as a review of leading company practices and programs, and latest literature. ICRW and BSR will continue putting these insights into practice by launching the “Investing in Women” Collaborative Initiative to help companies design and implement effective women’s empowerment strategies, evaluate progress and results and identify opportunities for collective action on the issue.
“A new generation of innovative partnerships is key to forging solutions to the toughest global challenges we face today. In this report, we identify where such collaboration can help overcome barriers to progress and truly bring about long lasting change both for women and business” added Fritz.