Supporters of government initiatives aimed at curbing workplace gender inequality tend to have little faith that markets can address the issue. But it makes good business sense to recruit and value women workers, according to a slew of studies linking gender balance with good company performance. For instance, a study of Fortune 500 companies from research organization Catalyst found that those with the highest representation of women on their boards of directors performed significantly better than those with the lowest representation of women.
Smart companies have increasingly sought to bring in women, and a new global certification program lets them show off those smarts to consumers, investors, and potential employees. In August, cosmetics maker L'Oreal USA became the first American company to earn the Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) certificate, joining some 60 others worldwide, including Deloitte and Ikea. More U.S. companies, including government contractors and software companies, are in the process of getting certified.
Earning the certification depends on a mix of factors, including a company's efforts to recruit and train women for leadership roles and whether men and women in equivalent positions are paid similarly. Megan Beyer, director of external affairs at the EDGE Foundation, told The Business Journals in August that the goal is to reach the point where it's a disadvantage not to be EDGE certified.