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Gender Equality and Women in the Workforce Mini-Series: Blog 1

By Erin O'Connor | Sat Dec 09 2017
Wherever you look these days, there are countless articles, media stories and statements being released about gender equality. Gender equality in the workforce, politics, and even in home life have been at the forefront of a global conversation in recent years and continues to gain momentum. But what exactly does it all mean? How do you, as an individual or an organization, actively support gender equality and women in the workplace? Here at RENEW, we’ve been following these conversations, and are committed to contributing to the growing dialogue about gender equality and women in the workforce.
To begin, it’s important to understand what gender equality is. Often, what you read or hear may present the terms gender equity, gender equality, and women empowerment interchangeably. So, to better understand what gender equality really is, let’s take a step back and understand the distinction in these three terms.
Gender equity
is making a concerted effort to promote fairness between men and women, by acknowledging and implementing measures that allow women and men to operate on an even playing field. Gender equity naturally leads to
gender equality
, which exists when women and men have equal access to these opportunities and resources. When inequality exists, it is women who are excluded from decision-making and access to resources, silencing them from the critical conversations that take place within organizations every day. The key outcome of gender equality is
women empowerment
, which follows when organizations focus on identifying and addressing power imbalances and ways to overcome them (UNFPA, 2005).
To achieve gender equality, the conversation needs to shift to a spot where we’re considering why this topic is critical to everyone, and not solely women. A key way to look at this, is how gender equality plays out in the workforce. In a 2015 McKinsey Report, they found that companies and organizations that embrace gender diversity generally have better performance than those that don’t. Those companies are 15% more likely to outperform the companies that rate low for diversity in the workplace (Huhman, 2017). A common misconception about gender equality in the workplace is that women need to be given more advantages. Gender equality means allowing every employee the same access to benefits and rewards. Equality needs to be an everyone issue, not just an issue surrounding women (2017).
When it comes to women in the workforce, as of 2017, women made up 39% of the labor force. Broken down by country, in Canada, women make up 47.2%, in the United States, they account for 45.9% and in Ethiopia they account for 46.9% of the work force (The World Bank, 2017). Globally, when we focus specifically on the finance sector as a whole, nearly half of employees in finance are women. However, women in leadership roles within this sector remain low, showing women holding only 25% of senior management roles, 18% holding CFO roles, and 4% holding the title CEO (Catalyst, 2015).
As an impact investing firm, RENEW has a vested interest in embracing equality both in our investments, and internally. We run our business the same we hope to see other companies run theirs: with a gender-diverse team with women in key leadership positions. Similarly, in our investments, we always value companies that support women and offer services that allow them to succeed in the workplace and in their private life.
Keep an eye out for more blogs in this series in the upcoming months.

Other blogs in this series:

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