Amidst growing awareness that empowering women yields high returns on investment, corporations have launched dozens of programs and invested over $300 million to support women’s economic empowerment over the past decade. A review of these initiatives conducted by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and Dalberg Global Development Advisors in 2014, revealed that corporate programs primarily seek to expand women’s employment opportunities, training, and access to finance. However, such programs overlook underlying social and structural barriers to women’s economic advancement such as control over reproductive health and family formation; the burden of childcare and other unpaid care work; restricted mobility; the threat of violence and lack of collective voice in society. As a result, there is a real risk that just as the private sector is increasing its investments in women’s empowerment, companies will fail to adopt the strategies necessary for that empowerment to take hold.
To address this challenge, ICRW and BSR are collaborating on a unique project to assist companies achieve greater levels of impact with their women’s economic empowerment strategies. Through this project, ICRW and BSR will:
- Engage corporations to invest strategically in women’s empowerment using the integrated, human-rights centered approach;
- Promote collaboration among companies around best practice, measurement and reporting about their investments in women’s empowerment; and
- Catalyze and support examples of leadership, working with individual companies to refine their approaches.
The tools developed as part of the project will be valuable for any corporation seeking to engage in women’s economic empowerment, but will be designed in large part to respond to the needs of companies participating in the BSR collaborative initiative.