8 ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE TO EMPOWER WOMEN THROUGHOUT YOUR BUSINESS
Women’s empowerment is increasingly on the business agenda and over recent years we've seen more women taking senior roles. It is great to see, however, empowering women in your business doesn’t just mean employing a female CEO. Women are involved in every aspect of jewellery business: from the mining of raw materials, cutting and polishing of stones to design, manufacture and retail of end product. So, why are so many companies failing to embed equality and inclusivity into their overarching strategy?
Women are involved in every aspect of jewellery business: from the mining of raw materials, cutting and polishing of stones to design, manufacture and retail of end product. Yet, while women’s empowerment is increasingly on the business agenda, jewellers are failing to embed equality and inclusivity into their overarching strategy.
A 2019 report by McKinsey shows that the representation of women in C-suite roles increased 24% over a five year period (study of around 600 US companies). However, the same report also states: ‘Although this is a step in the right direction, parity remains out of reach. Women – and particularly women of colour – are underrepresented at every level.’
The BSR agreed in its 2018 Women in the Jewellery Supply Chain report, which says: ‘The focus of public commitments from companies to date has largely been related to women in retail-facing operations […], much less is being devoted to addressing women in the supply chain.’
Are quotas on women in senior roles in danger of becoming a box ticking exercise? Shouldn’t the real focus should be on integrating women’s empowerment into overarching corporate strategies? This means proactively seeking ways to identify and support women throughout an entire supply chain, particularly those in lower paid or more vulnerable roles.
WHY IT MAKES SENSE TO EMPOWER WOMEN
Women drive demand for more than 90% of the world’s jewellery. Therefore brands who show a commitment to treating women fairly are likely to build trust with their target market.
High profile movements like #MeToo will continue to bring women’s issues to the forefront of consumer media. While sector specific action, like the Women’s Jewellery Network’s #NoGlassCeiling campaign, are raising awareness of issues found within our sector specifically. From a risk perspective, businesses need to have a clear strategy in place to ensure they are protecting and empowering women within their supply chains.
The BSR’s report states that: ‘Addressing challenges facing women in supply chains is an effective way to drive overall improvements in supply chains’. A simple way to do this, for example, is to improve the health and wellbeing of workers, which generally results in lower rates of absenteeism, and in turn can increase productivity.
The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals identify gender equality as a global priority. Supporting women’s equality, particularly their involvement in economic decision making, is seen as a catalyst to poverty reduction on a greater scale, bringing improvements in health and social development for a woman’s wider family and community.
EMBEDDING WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT IN YOUR BUSINESS
Even the smallest jewellery brand or designer-maker is attached to a supply chain that employs a considerable number of women. Regardless of the size or shape of your business, here are eight practical changes you can make to better support women throughout your supply chain:
1. Consider committing to the Women’s Empowerment Principles, which aim to promote gender equality in the workplace, marketplace and community.
2. Take a look at your company policies and how they relate to women. What is your recruitment process and could there be a risk of unconscious bias? How do your policies on flexible working and maternity leave impact on the ability of women (and men) to progress?
3. Purchase materials from sources that are committed to gender equality and protect basic human rights for people around the world. For example, choosing gold from Fairtrade or Fairmined certified artisanal mines.
4. Look into the possibility of producing collections in collaboration with women’s support groups or cooperatives, whether local or overseas. Seen in practice, American brand Purpose Jewelry partners with International Sanctuary to support women who have survived human trafficking.
5. Work with suppliers who have responsible employment practices, including policies on gender diversity, equal pay and safe working environments, which are free of harassment and discrimination. Review the ETI’s Base Code for information on industry standards.
6. Partner with an organisation that facilitates multi-stakeholder projects to support women. For example, the BSR HER Project brings together brands, supply chains and local NGO partners to deliver projects that improve women’s health, finances and gender equality.
7. Provide education, skills training and clear progression for women both in your company and those throughout your supply chain.
8. Support local community groups or charities that support women, either through donation or company volunteer time.
Let’s empower women now so that in the future we can achieve a truly meritocratic jewellery sector. Join the growing conversation with the Women’s Jewellery Network.
For support to embed women’s empowerment into your business strategy please get in touch.
This article was first published on the Women's Jewellery Network in December 2019
Image courtesy of Fairtrade Foundation.