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The Bold Steps of the Private Sector in Helping Achieve Gender Equity

in partnership with CARE, concordia global patron member

May 25, 2021 | DIgital

1:00 – 1:45 pm EDT


Gender equity in the workplace is not just a social issue—it’s also a business one. Recent reports find that by 2025, gender parity could add $12 trillion to the world economy. Additional research and evidence show that increasing gender diversity and empowering women within a company leads to increased profitability and productivity. Yet, at the current pace of progress, the world is still over 100 years away from achieving true gender equity as set forth by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This Concordia Live tackled this very issue. This past March, around International Women’s Day, CARE’s Corporate Council released the SDG5 Playbook, a toolkit to advise the private sector on how to achieve global gender equity by 2030. This discussion shared insights from this Playbook, with specific guidance on how businesses can more effectively integrate gender equity across dimensions such as “the field”, “the factory”, and “the supply chain”.

“A truly inclusive economic recovery is a problem way too big for one company/industry, so we are looking for innovative ways to partner with customers, the partner ecosystem, and especially governments to scale this work.”  – Kate Behncken

“How can we all show up as an ecosystem, and what happens when we put women at the heart of some of our policies and what happens when we collectively make actions about what we can do to close the gap?”  – Tori Horton

If you empower a woman, you empower a household, you drive a community, and – more importantly – you expand access in a nation.”  – Mike Okoroafor

“This is a time where we all have the opportunity to be brave. We are trying to change a power structure that has been deeply ingrained, and that is not a challenge for the faint of heart.”  – Lisa Manley

Partnering Lesson

Inclusive design is critical to the implementation of a large-scale initiative, which means, as one speaker said, “putting women at the center of the conversation”. To be truly gender inclusive in partnership design, consider practical elements – such as work-life balance, cultural expectations, access to finance or technology, and regulatory matters, as well as implementation aspects that might generate empowerment, like sourcing and procurement.

In Case You Missed It...

Amir Farokhi, Director, Corporate Council, Strategic Partnerships –  The private sector is a critical partner in our work to improve basic education, increased access to healthcare, and expand economic opportunity.

  • CARE’s Corporate Council was launched 2 years ago. The Corporate Council was conceived to bring the biggest and most ambitious partners together to lead on gender equality, which up until that point had been operating in somewhat of a silo. CARE’s Corporate Council now consists of 20 companies.
  • This panel, moderated by Naomi Cahn, was inspired by CARE’s SDG5 Playbook on gender equity, sustainable development goal 5 – achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls by 2030. The playbook was created to provide companies and their employees with guidance to understand the actions they can take in regards to gender equality.

Equal Pay:

Lisa Manley “Mars’ Full Potential platform is a value chain approach to gender equity. It looks at what we can do within our direct workplaces, supply chain communities, and marketplace to empower women.”

  • In 2020, Mars launched Full Potential, a platform to amplify work on gender equality within the workforce and marketplace. 
  • Currently women earn about 82 cents on each dollar that men earn. Recent data proves this wage gap is even deeper for working moms.
  • Mars is taking action with policies and practices aimed at improving female representation and wages, and benefits too.”
  • Another aspect of Full Potential is an ambition to have 100% gender balance within leadership teams.

Tori HortonOur mission at PayPal is for financial health, but that’s really linked to pay equality. So when we think about what our commitments are, it includes gender equality, as it is one of the most powerful things we can do to signal our commitment towards financial health. ” 

  • It’s important to find the connections between policies and day-to-day practices. We see that the public sector measures and creates policies to ensure equal pay and protections for women. Equally as important, is that the private sector shows up to support these initiatives. 
  • In 2019, PayPal made a commitment towards equal pay, which they have placed into their processes to practice year in and year out. Since this announcement, PayPal has maintained 100% equal gender pay globally. This equality has been shown amongst ethnic pay in the U.S. as well.  

Pay equity and employee care benefits really go hand in hand as we think about how we can strengthen the inclusiveness of our workplace culture.” Read more about PayPal’s Crisis Leave Benefit, which proved that ⅔ of those who utilized this benefit were women.


Philanthropy and Social Innovation:

Kate BehnckenWhat’s the unique value you can bring to the table to support this goal [of gender equality] – for us at Microsoft Philanthropies that’s digital inclusion, technology, partnerships and voice.”

    • A lot of Microsoft’s work on digital inclusion falls within digital equity – every person in every community should have access to the digital skills that are imperative to obtain high demand roles in an ever increasing digital economy, thus improving livelihoods.


  • “When thinking about digital economy, we know that around the world women and girls are often the groups most excluded…we know that the use of technology is such a powerful skill for women and girls to move forward and leapfrog. That’s why we [at Microsoft] ensure that our digital inclusion program includes a gender equity lens.”
  • For the first time, through the Generation Equality Forum, we’re seeing technology called out as a force for change to address gender equality.

Supply Chains:

Mike Okoroafor [In regards to philanthropy] The problem with most companies is you give when the business is doing well, and when the business is not doing well, you do not give as much. So we [McCormick] changed that. We made a commitment to deliver top tier financial performance by doing well for our people, our communities where we live, where we work, and where we source and the planet that we share. It’s about doing well by doing good.”

  • McCormick primarily sources their products from challenged regions (mostly around the tropics). McCormick has chosen to provide resilience within those farm communities – from capacity and capability. McCormick has taken a stance to include women equality and empowerment in this change. 
  • McCormick partnered with CARE and traveled to challenged farm communities around the globe to speak with women and learn of their experiences. They learned that 90% of the farm workers are women, but almost all of these farms are owned by men. McCormick has decided to change this. 
  • By creating female-owned cooperatives, McCormick has eliminated the middle man, thus providing the female workers and farm owners with the full profit. 
  • McCormick also has helped place schools inside the farm communities, to assist the female workers and ensure children have equal access to proper education. 
  • By 2025, 50% of McCormick’s executive leadership will consist of women.

Lisa Manley “Supply chains are more resilient when more women are able to reach their full potential.

  • Mars has partnered with CARE to empower 50,000 women in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire through the Village Savings and Loan Associations, which works to close the gap to living income by helping households accumulate more savings, providing loans and providing access to finance.


Gender Equality Post-COVID:

Mike Okoroafor Working with CARE really allowed us to amplify the [post-COVID] impact we had on challenged communities.”

Kate BehnckenAs each country emerges from COVID, we need to do more to focus and double down on our efforts to level the playing field for girls and women. And one powerful way women can be empowered financially is to secure jobs and livelihood opportunities…” which is why Microsoft’s Global Skills Initiative is so important.

Tori HortonThe pandemic added 36 years to that original opportunity to close the pay gap for women…The pandemic has really brought to the forefront that there has never been a better time to act, the time is always. But what can we do now and what can we do today to put the focus on women and how we can put women at the heart of policies and practices.