Giving Compass' Take:

• For corporate social responsibility programs, businesses need to understand the importance of gender equity and women's empowerment as part of sustainability issues.

• What companies are thinking about gender equity initiatives now?  

• Here are four lessons for companies investing in gender equity.

Over the past decade, the private sector has increased its engagement with women’s empowerment and gender equity. More companies have begun to invest in gender-related policies and initiatives, and the quality of that engagement has improved for those in the vanguard of this work. Corporations are getting better at identifying where the status of women is material to their business—as board members, employees, suppliers, customers, and distributors, and as members of the communities in which they operate.

This recognition is resulting in greater investments to establish gender pay equity, remove barriers for women to advance to senior leadership positions, source from women-owned businesses, improve the skills and capabilities of women workers, develop unique products for women consumers, implement community initiatives to address gender-based violence, and more. For many companies, uprooting gender inequities across the value chain is now considered both good for society and good for business.

Still, only a fraction of Fortune 500 companies are addressing gender-based issues and opportunities. What’s keeping most companies on the sidelines?

This work is ongoing, but it is not too early to explore what we can learn from the successful integration of environmental sustainability across corporate value chains. How can we adapt the approaches used in that effort to build a similar movement to eliminate gender disparities?

We argue that eliminating gender inequities and advancing women’s opportunity and empowerment is equally material to companies’ competitiveness and sustainability.

Unfortunately, companies aren’t collecting data—nor does enough research exist—to adequately back materiality arguments for gender equity across industries and the value chain.

Read the full article about gender equity by  Katherine Fritz, Genevieve Smith, & Marissa Wesely at Stanford Social Innovation Review.