- María Luisa Ayala from America-retail

Sostenibilidad: Investing in Workplace Gender Equality Is an Investment in Sustainability

Corporate sustainability goes far beyond carbon emissions and water efficiency. Workplace gender equality is quickly catching up to science-based targets and circular design in terms of the elements crucial for building businesses that can compete in a rapidly evolving economic landscape that values social and environmental responsibility.

But much like sustainability, the business case for workplace gender equality may not be entirely apparent to organizations. Enter the EDGE Foundation, co-founded by Aniela Unguresanand Nicole Schwab, which in 2011 created the EDGE Certification, the leading global assessment methodology and business certification standard for gender equality. EDGE, which stands for Economic Dividends for Gender Equality, is distinguished by its rigor and focus on business impact. Unguresan and Schwab designed the system to help organizations not only create an optimal workplace for women and men, but also benefit from it.

I spoke with Unguresan to learn more about why having a global certification for workplace equality is imperative and why gender equality is less about corporate responsibility and more about true sustainability.

What spurred the development of the EDGE Certified Foundation and certification system?

The EDGE Certified Foundation came into being in 2009, around the same time that McKinsey was coming out with the first studies on when women thrive, and showing positive correlations between performance and a better gender balance in organizations. The awareness around the importance of gender equality for the health and wealth of organizations and societies was mounting. We realized that the only way to create sustainable change around workplace gender equality was to look at it in the same way as any other business topic. Therefore, we needed to have a clear system in place to measure current status and progress, accountability, results and to set standards of excellence. We knew that if we didn’t apply the same rigor and discipline in pursuing workplace gender equality as we do in pursuing critical business goals, we would not be making sustainable progress.

In the beginning, the challenge was how to measure gender in the workplace in a consistent way across different industries and geographies. That was our ambition from the very beginning — recognizing that every company is unique and has its own strengths and opportunities for improvement when it comes to gender balance. However, we realized that there were two universal, underlying principles that held for everybody: the need to attract, develop, retain and motivate a richer and deeper talent pool — not only half of it — and the growing need of both men and women to live and work differently in the 21st century.

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