On International Women's Day, is gender equality India's next competitive advantage?

by 07th Mar 2014
A woman collecting water in Utta Pradesh A woman collecting water in Utta Pradesh © CARE / Jenny Matthews

There's a saying: what gets measured gets done. Right now, initiatives to promote gender equality in Indian companies are not being measured and, for the most part, they're not getting done.

On International Women's Day, CARE India is launching a new initiative calling for Indian companies to make a public commitment to gender equality by signing onto the UN Women's Empowerment Principles (WEP) and is publishing a practical tool to help them put the commitment into action.

The benefits of committing to – and tracking – gender equality

There is a business case for gender equality. According to the UN, India's growth rate could increase by 4.2 percent if the private sector offered more opportunities to women. Hiring and enhancing the capacity of female employees has been shown to be beneficial to the company by McKinsey and Deloitte, amongst others. And, as CARE has documented previously, companies can benefit not only by working with direct employees, but also by looking into their supply chains as well.

Tracking key gender indicators isn't just an academic exercise: it benefits the company itself to monitor performance internally and document the social and business impacts of gender equality in the workplace in support of the business case.

How the Women's Empowerment Principles can help

The Women's Economic Empowerment Principles are a UN tool to help companies improve their progress towards gender equality. The Principles lay out seven key points to help prioritise a range of actions companies can undertake, from establishing high level corporate leadership on gender equality to implementing enterprise development initiatives which benefit women.

CARE's new tool goes a step further by laying out detailed action planning and reporting guidelines. It is specifically targeted to the Indian legal context and offers best-practice examples of how the WEP is being implemented across different sectors. It also shows how implementing the WEP standards can support Global Reporting Initiative or UN Global Compact reporting.

Competitive advantage

The potential of women's untapped skills is vast. What remains to be seen is which countries, and companies, harness them first. Joining the WEP – and rigorously applying its standards – can help companies promote gender equality, and measure the gains from doing so.


Alexa Roscoe

Alexa was formerly a Private Sector Advisor with CARE International, designng and evaluating inclusive business programming with the UK Department for International Development, the European Union, and private sector partners in the global food and beverage, garment, and finance industries.

Alexa’s experience ranges across the public, private and non-profit sectors and 30 countries worldwide. Previously she worked in ethical sourcing with the extractives industry consultancy Estelle Levin Ltd. and with the Skoll Award-winning social enterprise Verite. Alexa holds a MSc Human Rights from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

You can follow Alexa's personal Twitter account at @AlexaRoscoe or connect with her on LinkedIn.