Do Your Company’s Policies Support Gender Equity?

Reposted from B the Change Weekly

Workplace policies can result in enforcing out-of-date or “traditional” gender roles. For example, though 70 percent of today’s mothers with children at home are actively in the workforce, on average, women still have two to three times the amount of caregiving work and domestic duties men have. This imbalance contributes to gender bias in hiring, the gender wage gap, and reduced gender diversity in the workplace and, most notably, in company leadership.

In order to achieve gender equity in business, we have to include a review of the policies in place within our workplaces and consider how those policies may affect all genders in different, inequitable ways. This week, we take a look at ways businesses can formalize and advocate for policy changes that can help close the gender gap.

Not Just Any Vegetable Distributor

Organic produce distributor Veritable Vegetable is built from radical roots. Formed in the Bay Area in 1974 during an era when food-buying clubs were first being established, Veritable Vegetable focused on getting good food from trusted sources, paying people fairly along the supply chain, and selling at affordable prices. “Veritable Vegetable stepped in as the distributor, the link between farmers and the buying clubs,” says Nicole Mason, director of community engagement at the B Corp. “We have changed a lot in 43 years, but the commitment to support small and midsize farms has never wavered. We’ve always worked to create a democratic workplace with gender and pay equity. We’re really being true to how we started.”

The vast majority of the 300-plus farms Veritable Vegetable works with remain those small (fewer than 50 acres) to midsize (50 to 300 acres) farms. While Veritable Vegetable also works with larger farms — including some of the biggest organic vegetable farms in the world — the company has remained committed to performing the necessary logistical dance of picking up from multiple shipping points and delivering to multiple customers, many of whom are small retail locations.

Veritable Vegetable is unique in the organic trade in other ways: A little more than half of the company’s employees are women, and 100 percent of its executive management and all of its owners are women. By comparison, in a 2013 look at the U.S. trucking industry, 200,000 of the more than 3 million truck drivers were women, a figure that represented a 50 percent increase since 2005. And in 2017, when Fortune Magazine released its Fortune 500 list, only 32 of the companies, or 6.4 percent, were run by female CEOs.

Veritable Vegetable’s values have not developed by chance. From owning its own fleet to remain nimble enough to meet the needs of multiple, smaller suppliers and its more than 500 customers to developing robust hiring and training programs to increase and maintain a diverse workforce, Veritable Vegetable has been thoughtful in building its business. By certifying as a B Corp and completing the legal steps to become a California benefit corporation, Veritable Vegetable’s values are built into the company’s operating procedures, employee handbooks, and bylaws. Its mission is baked into the company’s DNA.

We spoke with Mason to learn more about how Veritable is bringing its values forward after nearly half a century of operations and growth, and how the company is working to maintain a gender balance at all levels of the company’s operations even as it grows its workforce. Read the full interviewon B the Change.

What About Parental Leave?

B Corp UncommonGoods has been advocating nationally for paid family leave policy improvements. In a recent B the Change article, the company shares: “What ‘Paid Family Leave’ means is this: Family members can go on leave from work to take care of a newborn or seriously ill family member for a period of time, while continuing to receive some or all of their usual pay and benefits. While UncommonGoods started offering this important benefit before it was officially mandated in New York, we’ve strengthened our commitment to advocating for it over the past year. As our CEO Dave Bolotsky says, ‘We’ve been practicing but not preaching to our customers. Now we’re preaching what we’re practicing.’”

Why is parental leave important to gender equity in the workplace? UncommonGoods has three reasons to share:

  1. Paid family leave is very much a women’s issue: Of course, this is also a men’s issue, because it affects the entire family. But when 70 percent of mothers with children at home are now part of the workforce, women bear the brunt of the out-of-date policies we have now.
  2. We’re proud of being uncommon. But we’re not proud that the U.S. is uncommon in not having paid family leave: The U.S. is the only developed nation that doesn’t offer national paid leave.
  3. Paid family leave is the right thing to do, and it’s good for business (and good for the women who make up our workforce). The people who do have paid family leave generally have higher-paying jobs to begin with. That’s why Dave believes that the point of paid family leave is equality of opportunity: “The current law offers nothing for the people earning the least,” he says. “It’s unconscionable. And it affects women more.”

Read more about how you can advocate for paid parental leave. You can also find a story from Conscious Company on eight topics to review to see whether your company’s policies are supporting out-of-date gender roles.

Policies That Build an Inclusive Economy

B Lab launched the Inclusive Economy Challenge in 2016, calling on business leaders within the community of Certified B Corporations to take steps to improve their positive impact. The Inclusive Economy Metric Set was built into the B Impact Assessment (the assessment companies take to qualify as B Corps). While the challenge was directed toward B Corps, any business can make use of the tools, articles and free best-practice guides.

Participants in the first year of the challenge, which wrapped up in September 2017, set goals that included improving supply-chain screening, worker ownership, living wage, and — most relevant to the conversation about women in business and leadership — workforce and board diversity and primary-caregiver leave policies. The companies were also assessed on metrics related to increasing women in leadership: board diversity, management diversity and worker-ownership diversity.

Of the 154 companies that reported at least one measurable improvement as part of their participation in the 2017 Inclusive Economy Challenge, 39 companies increased the diversity and inclusion of their workforce, three companies increased the diversity and inclusion of their management, and nine increased the diversity and inclusion of their board. Twenty-one businesses adopted or improved family-friendly policies, including caregiver leave and job-flexibility options. Five companies specifically addressed gender-pay equity (non-manager positions), and nine B Corps increased the diversity of their board (including but not limited to gender diversity).

Of course, a more inclusive economy isn’t built in just one year. So far, in the first quarter of 2018, participants in the second year of the Inclusive Economy Challenge have set multiple goals relating to gender equity, including: “We aim to have gender balance on our board of directors”; “We’re reviewing our current recruiting processes to successfully attract more women/minorities”; “We will conduct a gender pay-equity analysis”; and “Increase gender diversity on teams where they are underrepresented.” Learn more about the role of company policy, and the companies making policy changes, to achieve gender equity on B the Change.

Want to make changes where you work? B Lab has created a best practice guide, “The Basics of Diversity and Inclusion in Your Workplace,” to help guide your company through getting buy-in from leadership on inclusion-focused programming, integrating inclusion goals into your existing strategy, creating an effective training plan for your team, and more. You’ll also find case studies from B Corps that have already made changes and implemented more inclusive policies, including the Business Development Bank of Canada.

B Lab has also gathered a group of relevant resources focused on the management of inclusion, equity, and diversity. The page offers tools to measure, calculate and analyze diversity and inclusion metrics, including a gender pay-equity calculator.

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