How companies are advancing gender equality through purpose-driven cultures

Gender equality is front and center in the public conversation as never before, and people are looking for ways to get involved and make a difference with more urgency and action. When we look at data from the hundreds of Fortune 1000 companies that use Benevity’s platform, volunteering time for women’s causes is growing at twice the rate of overall active volunteerism. On International Women’s Day itself, we saw donation activity double from 2016 to 2017, and donations to causes dedicated to women’s issues grew by nearly 12 times. These issues have tremendous personal resonance and meaning for so many of us because gender inequality is a deeply-felt, lived experience, and the opportunity to engage in open dialogue that holds individuals, companies and governments accountable is powerful. 
That’s why it’s so important this International Women’s Day for companies to reflect on how they’re participating in the gender conversation—and not just on March 8, but all year round. We’ve talked a lot recently about how people are increasingly looking to companies to take a leadership role on social justice issues. For International Women’s Day this year we wanted to share some examples from our client community of companies who are leading the way. For them, planting the flag in support of diversity and gender equality is crucial to their success.

Listening to the diversity & inclusion conversations where they happen 

“At Accenture, we believe that diversity is a source of competitive advantage,” says Brittany Humphry, a Business Strategy Manager & Women’s Group Co-Lead at Accenture. “By bringing together diverse people in a truly human way, we get better diversity of thought and are able to bring more creative and innovative solutions to our clients.”


One way Accenture brings gender equality issues to the forefront at the cultural level is through women’s employee resource groups (ERGs) in each office, with resources dedicated to the advancement of women and fostering a workplace culture of inclusion and diversity. For a global company with more than 425,000 employees, empowering ERGs to help drive local community initiatives provides opportunities to make a hands-on difference for local women’s causes in a way that’s directly meaningful to those employees.  

Humphry, our Benevity neighbor at the Calgary Accenture office, described to us some of her team’s local efforts to provide a snapshot of how those conversations at the employee level are guiding volunteer planning and grantmaking decisions: 
“One program we run locally here in Calgary is called the Community Consulting Project where we partner with university students to deliver pro-bono consulting projects to our community partners, many of which are focused on empowering and improving the lives of women. We have worked with Making Changes (an Alberta charity that provides employee and life-skills programs and resources for women in transition) for several years now, helping them to enhance the way in which they achieve their mission. Accenture supports this and other partner charities through employee donations and volunteer time, focusing on programs that equip beneficiaries with the skills to get a job or start a business, ultimately enhancing women’s economic freedom here in Calgary.” 

Inspiring current and future employees

Ball Corporation takes a similarly strategic and intentional approach to collaboration and alignment between community investment and diversity and inclusion.  

“If young women see role models that they can aspire to in a professional environment … we’ll have a greater chance of inspiring them to start a career.” 

“A lot of our of Ball Resource Group and Ball Interest Group employees get a sense of engagement and meaning and purpose out of what they do, so I love the collaboration between what we’re doing on the D&I side, and the Ball Foundation,” says Manette Snow, Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion.  
Promoting STEM education for under-represented groups is a key focus for the aerospace and manufacturing company. The Ball Foundation provides support to community organizations making a difference in the area through grants and volunteering programs, all of which are carefully chosen and planned to engage their own employees in the process. 
“Those efforts are aligned greatly,” says Chris Chavez, Director, Corporate Relations & Executive Director of The Ball Foundation. “We work all along the pipeline whether it’s Pre-K through K-12 and post-secondary, into our successful internship program, to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders and STEM employees, which we want to feed directly into our business. Minority communities and women are under-represented in those STEM fields, and we work with several nonprofits to encourage children and students to think about those kinds of careers. We’re working hard to align our mentors and our professional role models, with those students. It’s all built around role models. If young women see role models that they can aspire to in a professional environment, and they see the diversity of roles that they could have at a company like Ball, we’ll have a greater chance of inspiring them to start a career.” 

Gender Eq Blog 1At Genentech’s Gene Academy, South San Francisco students get excited about school, science, and their futures.

Inspiring more girls to get involved in STEM fields is also a strategic focus for Genentech. Gender equality and STEM are two key cause focus areas that align strongly for the biotech company, as they look to move the needle on bringing more women into science and engineering careers. 

“Annually, Genentech supports more than 4,000 K-12 girls in our local South San Francisco School District via Futurelab, including almost 30,000 volunteer hours,” says Kristin Campbell Reed, Genentech’s Director of Corporate & Employee Giving. “These programs are designed to ignite curiosity and lead to scientific discovery and potential future careers in STEM.” The approach has been wildly successful, and Fast Company recognized Genentech as one of their Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Social Good for Futurelab. 

Cultural approaches that transform companies 

Futurelab’s mentoring focus helps address known barriers that deter girls from science. By connecting local students with women and people from diverse backgrounds who are also scientists, the program breaks down stereotypes, enabling students to imagine careers they otherwise might not have. This approach is consistent with internal efforts at bolstering diversity and inclusion in science, where Genentech has seen real change over time. 

“In 2007, Genentech’s then-CEO, Art Levinson, identified that very few women were in the company’s top ranks and launched a plan to improve gender diversity at all levels. By understanding the subtle barriers to women’s advancement, and by recruiting and promoting more women, Genentech was able to more than double the number of female officers (VP-level and above) from 15% in 2007 to 40% in 2017.  Today, 53% of Genentech’s employees and 56% of new hires are women, and vibrant affinity groups like Genentech Women in Science help drive continued cultural change.

Gender equality is a year-round issue

For all of these companies, their workplace giving, volunteering and community grantmaking efforts around advancing women’s progress are year-round initiatives. By programming thoughtfully throughout the year and using calendar awareness dates like International Women’s Day as emphasis points, they’re able to make an impact through sustained momentum.  

For Intuit, International Women’s Day is a chance to connect with the women they’re supporting through their programs, to hear their impact stories. “On International Women’s Day, the Intuit Women Network (IWN) is hosting women-run business owners at our campus sites around the globe with the theme of understanding what #PressForProgress means for them,” says Yi Ng, Bay Area Chair of the Intuit Women Network. “Our mission is to power prosperity so on this day we listen to small businesses tell their stories about how they help to power prosperity through their creations and actions.” 
“As women, we can always be the change,” said Maria Palacio, owner of Progeny Coffee, one of the female entrepreneurs that Intuit is hosting at one of their global offices for International Women’s Day. “We don’t need to wait for someone to make the change. We can push forward. So far, Progeny Coffee has brought 11 Colombia families out of poverty.” 

Accenture Global is hosting events in nearly 50 countries from March through April, aimed at bringing the community—employees, community partners, students—together to celebrate progress, share stories, break down barriers and get inspired to continue pushing for progress. They also release annual research for International Women’s Day, on the topic of Getting to Equal, that drives the conversation on workplace equality forward.

Diversity and inclusion makes companies better 

We’re fortunate to be surrounded by companies that understand that by being leaders on gender equality, they’re making their communities—and their own companies—more innovative, creative and successful. By thinking deeply about belonging and inclusivity, and weaving equality into their corporate cultures, they’re creating workplaces where everyone can be their best, authentic selves.  
At Benevity this issue is close to our hearts. We’ll be celebrating International Women’s Day by offering a 200% match on donations to some of our favorite women’s causes here in Calgary through our Community Impact Portal until March 9, and continue the conversation around equality and inclusion by publishing stories from some of our own inspiring women. Check out their stories, and keep the conversation going!