/ 11.12.19 /

What it means to “invest in women” — and why it’s good for business

When we invest in women, we help build a society where all women have gained economic independence. That’s great for women…and more personally, your investment in women — the women who work for you and those in your community — is great for your business. Part of our mission at Working for Women is to make that connection and give it impact on all sides.

Let’s look first at the big picture: We’re experiencing a moment of change. Can you feel it? More women are entering the workforce, occupying executive roles, and commanding higher salaries. But the economic and empowerment gap is still too wide for many women. Consider these facts:

  • In 2015, one in eight women and nearly one in five children lived in poverty, with over half living in women-led families.
  • According to the National Women’s Law Center, in 2016 more than one in three female-headed families with children were poor (versus 17.3 percent of male-headed households).
  • Poverty rates were higher still for women who headed families if they were black (38.8 percent) or Latina (40.8 percent).

Despite statistics like these, the level of investment in women doesn’t match its urgency; philanthropic giving and private investment dollars don’t adequately meet the need for education, rehabilitation, job training, and other programs that elevate women in the workforce and help them gain economic independence. Those missing dollars are where business comes in – business as a force for social good and the resources to invest in women the way philanthropy alone cannot.

Filling in those missing dollars is important not just for women, but for business as a whole. According to research sponsored by the Women’s Opportunity Fund, investments in women have a ripple effect into the world around them. They’re proven more likely than men to put their income back into their families and communities…which in turns reduces mortality and illiteracy rates and increases the GDP. They put their income back into the economy as well: a Forbes study reports that 96 percent of women have primary or shared responsibility for family financial decisions, and 70-80 percent of all consumer purchases are driven by women, through buying power and influence.

At Working for Women, we’ve seen this power of investment in women firsthand through our nonprofit partners. For example: meet Amanda. Being severely bullied as a preteen led to drug and alcohol abuse and eventually, an addiction to painkillers and heroin. After two cycles of recovery and relapse, Amanda joined the program at our nonprofit partner Unshattered, an accessory company creating beautiful, one of a kind bags, handcrafted by women who are winning their fight against addiction. Unshattered’s investment in Amanda helped her stay sober, and today she’s paying that investment forward as the company’s creative lead and production manager. She’s also a mom and participant in a leadership training program in her community.

An investment in women can become a company’s investment in itself. Case in point: Professional services company ZS realized an unexpected benefit when, as part of their commitment to invest in women, they partnered with W4W to create employee volunteer opportunities. W4W and ZS ran a workshop on how to negotiate, bringing together ZS employees with women served by New Women New Yorkers, which empowers young immigrant women in NYC to get their first paying, fulfilling job. Both sides of the table came out with valuable workplace skills, and ZS found they’d given their own employees a chance to develop talent they can put back into the company.

Here’s why more and more companies, entrepreneurs, and executives are committing to invest in women:

  • A purpose – especially one that’s part of a growing movement — and an active commitment of money, time, and energy to advancing that purpose, helps attract and retain talented employees and foster a healthy workplace culture.
  • Companies that invest in women also create something that socially conscious investors respond to – especially millennials, a generation on track to become the number-one influencers of capital markets in the coming decades.
  • Investment in women helps create brand loyalty among your clients and customers for whom the mission of gender equality resonates. For example, research by clothing company Eileen Fisher found that 40 percent of their customers are willing to support brands that share their values.
  • Small businesses and sole proprietors can also invest in women and reap rewards.  Partnering with community organizations that serve women can lead to powerful networking and lasting business relationships. And just like with larger companies, a commitment to a purpose will help you attract key talent and clients that will help grow your business.

 The Invest in Women movement is growing. How will you be part of it?