Key finding

Companies lack ambition to drive transformative change

Transformative change from and by the private sector is required to achieve the SDGs. However, companies are only at the beginning of their journey to address gender inequalities and empower women, and to contribute to SDG 5.

Our 2021 Gender Benchmark evaluates how 35 apparel companies are addressing gender inequalities and empowering women. Overall, performance is poor – the average score of all companies is 29.1 points out of 100. Only Adidas, Gap and VF Corporation score above 50 points.

While performance by measurement area varies, it remains low across all themes. Companies average the highest on violence and harassment at 37%, followed by governance and strategy at 32%. On representation and health and well-being, companies average the same at 25%. The lowest measurement area average across companies is compensation and benefits at 18%.

Strategic action

A company committed to gender equality is one that recognises both its wider responsibility and the business case for respecting gender equality and upholding women’s rights – and takes appropriate strategic action. Although making a public commitment to gender equality is a strong first step – six of the ten best performing companies are signatories to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles – companies can and should do more to prioritise gender equality and women’s empowerment, for example by disclosing and tracking specific targets.

11 companies (31%) make a high-level, public commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and 14 companies (40%) appear to have integrated gender into their business strategy across their value chain. However only seven companies (20%) have disclosed at least two targets on gender equality and women’s empowerment, and only four (11%) ensure the company’s board of directors has at least annual oversight of progress against these targets.

Gender equality in leadership

Nearly all the companies assessed (97%) disclose the percentage of women on their board of directors and at the senior executive level – a requirement of most regulatory commissions for publicly listed companies. Decathlon, one of four privately held companies assessed, is the only company that does not disclose this information. However, far fewer companies (60%) disclose the percentage of women at the senior management level, and only half (54%) do so at the middle management level.

In terms of gender equality across these levels, only five companies (14%) maintain a gender balance – between 40-60% women – at the board level. Just seven companies (20%) have this balance at the senior executive level; 11 companies (31%) at the senior management level and seven companies (20%) at the middle management level.

Gender pay gap and living wage

Companies should collect gender pay data and take steps to address any identified pay inequalities. While 17 companies (49%) report their gender pay gaps in France or the UK where mandated by law, only Adidas and Inditex collect data on the difference in earnings between women and men employees globally. Furthermore, Adidas, Fast Retailing and Inditex are the only companies that show they are actively addressing gender pay gaps in their workplace.

To contribute to poverty alleviation and help close the gender pay gap in the supply chain, companies should also require their suppliers to pay workers a living wage that is sufficient to cover the basic needs of the worker and his or her dependents as well as provide some discretionary income. Most companies (83%), however, default to requiring suppliers to pay only the legal minimum wage, which is not necessarily enough for workers to live on. Inditex is the only company that requires its suppliers to pay workers a living wage, as defined above. Moreover, only five companies (14%) are taking steps to help ensure suppliers pay their workers a living wage by conducting wage assessments in factories and promoting industry collaborations, such as the Platform Living Wage Financials and the ACT accountability and monitoring framework.

Next finding

All findings

Key finding

Companies are not ensuring women are prepared for another pandemic

Read more