Profiting from Parity: The Business Case for Gender Integration in Value Chains

March 23, 2016

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Amy Braun, Senior Sustainability Manager, Kellogg; Kara Valikai, Senior Manager, Women's Economic Empowerment, Walmart Stores, Inc.; Sydney Price, Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, Kate Spade & Company; Katarina Kahlmann , Director, Strategic Initiatives, TechnoServe; and Shamarukh Mohiuddin, Director, Economic Empowerment Program, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Corporate Citizenship Center on the "Enabling Women in Global Supply Chains" panel at IWD 2016.

Takeaways

Women have the potential to transform global supply chains. We discussed how, and why, at IWD 2016.

[Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on the CIPE Development Blog.]

Sustainable Development Goal 5 set the bar to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” by 2030. Closing gender gaps in work and society could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025, according to McKinsey Global Institute. This figure underscores the socioeconomic importance as well as global economic potential available if we achieve gender parity, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day Forum led by the United Nations and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

The Forum is an annual, collective effort to convene government, private sector, and civil society and “put on our gender glasses” as one participant descriptively put it. Humbly, many stakeholders – both public and private – admitted this year that the data necessary to establish a baseline to then track our advancement towards this goal of gender parity remains either poor or non-existent. Examining both global value chains and individual business models through a gender lens allows for a foundation of knowledge that helps provide a clear understanding of how strategies and operations are influencing women’s empowerment.

Among the many conversations taking place during what should more aptly be named International Women’s Month, I found the dialogue around gender integration into business model and value chains particularly exciting. Encouragingly, more and more businesses are realizing that social impact and business profit do not always occur at the expense of one another. In fact, companies that are integrating gender are becoming more competitive, as seen in examples from BURN in Kenya to GUARDIAN (Gramalaya Urban and Rural Development Initiatives and Network) in South India in Women and Social Enterprises: How Gender Integration Can Boost Entrepreneurial Solutions to Poverty, a recent report by Acumen, the Cartier Foundation, and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). Not every company may aspire to be a social enterprise, but every company can become more gender inclusive by integrating women within its value chain. In fact those that are integrating gender are, in turn, becoming more competitive. Companies from SMEs to multinationals can now tap into these social and economic impacts by adapting lessons learned in the areas of equitable systems, structures, and policies; product design; production and manufacturing; and marketing, sales, and distribution into their own business models and value chains.

Women’s increased ownership along a value chain ignites a ripple effect of increased purchasing power, economic empowerment, and for companies, an expanded market. By continuing to raise and address one of the greatest social problems of our time – gender inclusion – companies will benefit from more people moving into the markets for their products. Gender parity means so much more than the empowerment of women alone, it is about unleashing the full potential on an entire society so that everyone can fully thrive.