Women are often disproportionately affected by adverse business practices and do not enjoy the same economic opportunities as men. Gender norms – the roles and expectations that society puts on people of different genders – are deeply embedded in many societies around the world. Women face many barriers to equality and economic empowerment [1]. Some examples:

  • Women are particularly vulnerable to harassment and violence in the workplace.
  • Women are more likely to be discriminated in recruitment, training and career opportunities.
  • Women are often paid lower wages than men for the same activities.
  • Women are more often linked to precarious, informal or irregular employment.
  • Women smallholder farmers are most impacted by companies taking over land due to women’s lack of ownership or control over land.

Each of these examples also have profound impact on business. When women suffer violence and harassment at the workplace this results in lower productivity levels and retention rates due to women not feeling safe or respected at work. When women face barriers to professional advancement, companies limit opportunities for product and process innovation. When women do not have access to family planning, lack adequate pre- and postnatal care (as well as general healthcare), or suffer from domestic or workplace violence, it is not surprising that some degree of productivity is lost and that high rates of absenteeism or turnover are observed. Both women themselves and business suffer from these impacts.

In addition to preventing negative impacts, business can take a proactive approach to promoting the position of women in global supply chains. An increasing number of companies acknowledge that gender equality and women’s economic empowerment are essential to build healthy and resilient businesses. There is ample evidence of the business case for investing in gender equality throughout the international supply chain:

  • McKinsey found that gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform the national industry median [2]
  • The International Labour Organization and International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Better Work Programme has found a link between better working conditions and higher profit margins by showing that factories participating in the programme experienced a rise in profitability. In Vietnam, for example, factories that Better Work had advised increased their profitability by 25 percent within four years [3]
  • Offering healthcare for women and their children at the workplace is linked to a three- to four-fold return on investment, according to studies by the IFC in Bangladesh and Egypt [4]
  • The FAO found that giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources could increase production on women’s farms in developing countries by 20 to 30% [5]

Carrying out GRDD supports companies in identifying and addressing the potentially negative impacts business can have on the position of women in global supply chains. GRDD supports efforts to empower women and achieve gender equality, while also fostering long-term sustainability of individual businesses, as well as sectors as a whole.