Sustained economic empowerment requires a building block approach to address the underlying structural barriers that women often face in striving to become full participants in their economies and societies.
This was the conclusion of a groundbreaking 2014 report commissioned by the Oak Foundation on 31 of the largest corporate-funded women’s economic empowerment (WEE) programmes. Through use of eight building blocks to design a strategic framework for women’s empowerment programmes, the report laid out a roadmap for how organisations can put this integrated approach into action – and create lasting social and financial value.
Subsequent reports have reinforced these findings. McKinsey Global Institute’s September 2015 Power of Parity report highlighted the multi-faceted issues inhibiting WEE, including political under-representation, fewer legal rights, violence against women, low maternal and reproductive health, unequal education levels, and financial exclusion. The report concluded that gender parity at work was not possible without achieving gender parity in society. Other reports that have emphasized the importance of this multi-faceted approach to WEE include ICRW and Business for Social Responsibility (BSR)’s 2016 report, Building Effective Women’s Economic Empowerment Strategies, and the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment reports on taking action for transformational change on women’s economic empowerment.
The Business Case
Companies have a range of incentives to support the women who work and live across their value chain.
Women’s funds and organisations are gender experts in complex local contexts. Through their experience in using holistic approaches to address WEE, partnering with local organisations in programme design and delivery facilitates lasting social and financial value. Among other things, these organizations are:
- Trusted, Strategic and Culturally Grounded
They have wide-reaching networks in their communities and intimate awareness of the cultural, social, political and religious obstacles to creating change.
- Offer a Holistic View
They have a deep understanding of the multi-faceted issues that can affect the ability of women and girls to become full participants in the economy and society.
- Experienced Navigators
They bring extensive experience advocating for change and building support in local and national politics and legal systems.
They offer highly efficient service provision, operating within the cost structure of their home country.