2021 Key finding

Companies are ignoring their employees’ needs

Companies’ efforts to drive gender equality and women's empowerment are more focused on their external stakeholders rather than their own employees. Gender efforts in the community, such as programmes that benefit women and girls, are more than double the gender efforts in the workplace.

The community element has the highest average score at 57%. Most companies (83%) support initiatives to drive gender equality and women’s empowerment in the community. Eighteen companies participate in programmes across multiple regions and tracking the number of women and girls who benefit.

In the marketplace element, the average score is 29%. Eighteen companies (51%) take specific actions to avoid discriminatory marketing practices, such as promoting positive images of women and girls, highlighting the importance of female leadership and breaking stereotypes that women face in sports.

The average company commitment to drive gender equality and women’s empowerment in the supply chain is 31%, slightly better than in the marketplace element.

Surprisingly, the average score in the workplace is 26% – the lowest score across all value chain elements. Better performance in the supply chain than in the workplace could be the result of supply chain requirements being more clearly communicated, such as in the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh that was introduced following the Rana Plaza incident. Another reason could be that apparel companies’ supply chain practices have faced greater scrutiny over the past years.

There are some stark differences in the ways that companies interact with external stakeholders and their supply chain workers, in comparison to their own employees. One example is stakeholder engagement. Companies need to show a stronger commitment to understanding the diversity of employees’ needs and interests and addressing adverse gender-differentiated impacts. While 21 companies (60%) engage with external stakeholders to inform their gender efforts, only eight of these companies engage their own employees specifically on gender equality and women’s empowerment issues through surveys or other engagement mechanisms. Furthermore, while eight companies (23%) provide evidence of integrating external stakeholders’ feedback into company policies and practices, only Aditya Birla displays evidence of also integrating its own employees’ feedback.

When it comes to professional development, companies should empower women to grow in their roles and increase their pipeline of women leaders. In the supply chain, 15 companies (43%) support women workers to develop their supervisory or managerial skills and occupy similar leadership roles as men. However, only eight of these companies also offer professional development opportunities to their own employees. Moreover, only 11 companies (31%) track the number of women workers who benefit from their supply chain professional development programmes. Associated British Foods (Primark) and Levi Strauss are the only companies that also track the number of women employees benefitting from their programmes in the workplace.

Finally, companies should take a more active role in preventing and addressing violence and harassment across the value chain. Twelve companies (34%) support their suppliers in preventing violence and harassment in the supply chain through awareness campaigns and capacity-building training. Aditya Birla, Inditex and Under Armour are the only companies that also take additional action to help prevent violence and harassment in their own operations.

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Gender data is still invisible

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