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100 Companies Taking Positive Action on Gender Equality

The Busy Person’s Guide to 100 Companies Taking Positive Action on Gender Equality:  All the need-to-know info over a coffee or on your commute… 

When it comes to issues of equality and fairness within the workplace, it can be tricky to know which way to turn and who to listen to. So many sources offer conflicting information, and even if it’s accurate information, it may be outdated or not applicable to the needs of your teams. So, where can you go for the rundown on gender disparity in the UK? The Busy Person’s Guide is an article series designed to centralise all the need-to-know information you can read over a coffee or on your commute. 

For a downloadable version of this report to share with your colleagues or teams, please click below

For our latest report on gender equality, we are taking a deep-dive into the ways that companies around the world are advancing their cultures to better enable women to have fulfilled lives and careers, throughout the entire pipeline. In doing so, we uncover global commonalities (such as the underrepresentation of women and girls in STEM), and also challenges for women that are unique or prevalent in certain industries – we recognise that where companies are taking tangible action to address these, progress is faster.  

The companies we reference throughout are by no means perfect. They are a work in progress and there is no industry where gender equality has been reached. However, we hope that you use this report to gain an understanding of the nuanced obstacles that women face within different sectors and the steps needed to overcome them, as well as find inspiration and ideas for the action you could take within your own company. 

All of the examples within this report have been sourced online, typically within each company’s gender pay gap or ESG reporting, or on a dedicated page on their website. We think there are likely many other companies taking positive steps out in the world, however an immediate observation is that they should be communicating this more clearly, widely and loudly, in order to attract talent, particularly women. It’s also worth noting that establishing employee resource groups (ERGs), whilst a key part of any D&I strategy, is not a ‘solution’ to the gender gap. Tangible, meaningful, useful evolution of ‘the system’ and endorsed at the most senior levels, is what makes a difference. 

Our findings can be grouped into three layers of challenges to gender equality: 

The companies we are highlighting are taking action to address one or more of these. 

Everything within this report is made even more complex with an intersectional lens. We plan to explore this more deeply in future reports, in order to shine a light on the additional setbacks to gender equality that millions of people that identify as women, face. 


Chapter 1: Finance 

Chapter 2: Law 

Chapter 3: Construction, Manufacturing & Engineering

Chapter 4: Healthcare 

Chapter 5: Travel & Tourism 

Chapter 6: FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) / Consumer Packaged Goods) 

Chapter 7: Tech 

Chapter 8: Utilities and Services 

Chapter 9: Fashion, Retail & QSR 

Chapter 10: Advertising, Media & Marketing 

Chapter 1: Finance 

Finance is one of the oldest industries as we know it. With that comes a lot of legacy about how things should be approached, and systems that are not easy to change. More women at the top is the best way to accelerate progress and make the business more human for all. It also just makes business sense. For example, gender-balanced executive teams are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability. Click to read more about gender equality in business.  

Workplace challenges to gender equality 

1. Royal Bank of Canada (North America & Europe) 

Building the pipeline of future leaders. The RBC Capital Markets Women’s Advisory Program is a professional development program for women undergraduates interested in a career in Finance, particularly within Global Investment Banking or Global Markets where the representation of women in leadership is currently not equal. 

2. Citibank (North America) 

A partnership with Npower to attract non-traditional candidates for careers in Finance. 40 by 22 has resulted in 125 hires of entry-level non-white women who are educated with the fintech skills needed to become the leaders of the future.  

3. Rothschild & Vanguard (Global) 

Investment in the development of mid-senior women to avoid the ‘drop-off’. We work with both companies through the Shine For Women programme to build confidence and influence in women, right at the point at which they statistically start to stall or leave their careers in Finance. 

Marketplace challenges to gender equality. 

4. Capital One (North America) 

Support for all women employees, not just head office. 75% of workers in branch are women, so they have extended initiatives to be available to them such as family care days and scheduling flexibility, which is against the industry standard. This aims to keep them in senior in-branch positions. 

5. Natwest (UK) 

Trained up specialists to uniquely support women in business. Created a team of 1000 Women in Business Specialists to support women-founded companies and entrepreneurs. 

6. Coutts (UK) 

Created a fund for investment and advice into women-founded businesses. The UK Enterprise Fund (UKEF) aims to provide tangible support to overcome the barriers to women entrepreneurs. 

Community challenges to gender equality 

7. Starling Bank (UK) 

Changing the dialogue around women and personal finance in the UK. Created a free image library as part of their #MakeMoneyEqual campaign to better represent women and money and break down stereotypes. 

8. JP Morgan Chase (Global) 

Improving financial health for thousands of girls and women around the world. As part of their Women on the Move initiative, they provide tools and education in the community for all women to use at key moments in their lives. By including girls aged 6-18 in this work they aim to equip a new generation with the financial literacy needed for long-term wellbeing and stability. 

9. Goldman Sachs (Global) 

Providing education to women living in poverty that enables them to grow their businesses and thrive. 10,000 Women is a free-to-access online practical business course for women anywhere in the world. 

10. BlackRock (Global) 

Working with the UN to promote gender lens investing. A push for more capital into companies that address women’s needs in education, financial services, childcare, healthcare and other sectors. 

The opportunity: With targets and deadlines fast approaching, companies should focus on building confidence and influence in their mid-senior level women, to support them through what we call at Shine, ‘the endless juggle’ phase of their lives. This will ensure that they stay in the organisation (and the industry), get to ‘the top’ and positions of influence, as a result, a gender balance is reached. The ripple effect this creates is economic empowerment for women around the globe. 

Chapter 2: Law 

Law is another industry where legacy and tradition is institutionally embedded, and with that often comes an ‘old boys’ club’ culture which is hard to change. Taking considered action to include women throughout the pipeline, particularly at the top, is the only way systems will evolve – and in many countries around the world, justice will finally prevail.   

Workplace challenges to gender equality 

1. Mills Reeve (Global) 

A series of initiatives to role model women Partners. These include a series of interactive talks and workshops that transparently demonstrate how other women have made Partner, including content focussed on how women have made this work on a flexible/part-time basis. 

2. Ropes & Gray (US) 

A Grant to fund activities that enable women to reach Partner level. Named after the first woman Partner at the company in 1973, The Joan D. Fuller Professional Development grant provides money that can be used for personal development and ways for women to build relationships with colleagues, clients and prospective clients. 32% of Partners at the firm are women, with an industry average of 21%.  

3. Baker McKenzie (Global) 

Supporting job-share arrangements to allow Partners to work flexibly. Baker McKenzie empowers Partners to make it work for their clients, the company and for themselves and their families. 

4. Latham & Watkins (Global) 

Not pro-rating year-end bonuses for paid leave to avoid penalising parents for taking time out of the business and skewing their pay gap. It encourages partners to take leave, not just women, which evens the playing field. 

5. YLaw (Canada) 

Introduced First Trimester Leave for expectant parents. Mothers receive up to 3 months’ fully paid leave for time out of the business due to side effects of pregnancy. Partners receive up to a month to care for a pregnant other experiencing health issues. 

6. Greenberg Traurig (Global) 

A business development programme for high potential women shareholders. Via coaching, workshops, personal plans and sponsors, the G2G programme supports women’s growth into strong business developers, collaborators and leaders that are able to sell both externally and across teams. 

Marketplace challenges to gender equality. 

7. Simmons and Simmons (Global) 

Partnering with clients to improve gender equality. Their gender ERG, TNOC (The Number One Club) identifies opportunities to collaborate with clients and their own ERGs to address and improve gender balance together. 

8. WilmerHale (US) 

Increasing visibility and experience for women at the most senior levels. The company ensures that women lawyers are put forward for high profile cases. More than 100 of the firm’s women lawyers have trial experience. And, between 2020 and 2021, 66% of the 30 largest investigatory matters handled by the firm, and 67% of the firm’s public offerings were led or co-led by women – the latter raising nearly $60 billion. Several have gone on to become judges. 

Community challenges to gender equality

9. Sanford Heisler Sharp (US) 

An industry-leading firm specialising in gender discrimination cases. They have represented thousands of women and wins include securing a $253 million jury verdict against Novartis (the largest in US history), a $2 million settlement for a woman that was denied pregnancy accommodations at work, and a multi-year settlement for a female lawyer denied promotion to Partner.   

10. Travers Smith (UK) 

Created the largest pro bono advocacy service for women victims of domestic violence. Sam Cottman, Director at Travers Smith founded DARA (the Domestic Abuse Response Alliance) Via this alliance, women can access free legal support and representation from lawyers across multiple firms, including Debevoise & Plimpton, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Hogan Lovells, Latham & Watkins, Reed Smith and Slaughter & May. This is much needed following government cuts to legal aid, which make accessing legal protection orders impossible for many women and therefore threatening their safety. 

The opportunity: Companies need to fix the pipeline at the Partner level, ensuring that women reach positions of authority and therefore the system starts to change. A mixture of practical benefits, evolving standards and practices for all employees (men and women), and building women’s confidence and influence at this point in their careers, should start to see more women reach Partner and beyond. ‘Beyond’ in some cases means becoming a judge, and this means greater gender equality within judicial systems and greater outcomes for women in many countries. 

Chapter 3: Construction, Manufacturing & Engineering 

There are significantly less women working in Construction, Manufacturing and Engineering throughout the pipeline. For example, in the UK only 11% of the Construction workforce is women, and this drops to 1% for on-site workers.

Stereotypically these types of roles have been perceived as being ‘male’, however the world is headed towards a shortage of workers globally, and women are needed for companies to keep up with demand (as well as it just simply making sense!). 

Workplace challenges to gender equality 

1. Northrup Grumman (Global) 

Investing in STEM opportunities for girls where there are significant gaps in their pipeline. Rather than approach the pipeline as a whole, they’ve targeted the areas that are the most unequal at a management level – in this case cyber activities. The Chair, CEO and President of the company is a woman, which is unusual for the industry. 

2. Wates (UK) 

Tackling the ‘drop-off’ before, during and after. 125 women of varying levels will be supported through personal development programmes to celebrate their 125th year. 

3. Willmott Dixon (UK) 

Investing in extra support for mid-senior level women. A programme that sends women to University of Cambridge Business School in order to build the pipeline of future leaders. 

4. General Motors (US) 

Developed an industry-leading programme to attract and develop women car dealers. The GM Women’s Retail network was established by General Motors as part of their mission to increase the presence of women in the automotive industry. They’ve found that more women in dealership leadership positions also has a positive impact on sales. In 2022 women dealerships have been found to be more profitable compared to all GM dealerships. 

5. Sir Robert McAlpine (UK) 

Driving flexible working for all. Even pre-pandemic, they funded research into the benefits of flexible working, led by the influencer and campaigner, Anna Whitehouse – in order to lobby the UK government. The “Flexonomics: The economic and fiscal logic of flexible working” study proves the positive impact on people, business and society (it finds that flexible working could create over 50,000 jobs and generate £55bn to the UK economy). It also provides examples of practical flexible working solutions for industries to follow. Flexible working has been long seen as hard to implement in Construction, so the fact that they have taken this on, given their own employees the right to request flexibility from Day One, and are driving action and influencing change amongst the industry and beyond is a huge achievement. They are a family business and explain that this ethos of looking after one another like a family does runs throughout everything they do.  

6. Network Rail (UK) 

Provides mobile wellbeing units for women Construction workers. Previously and still in other companies, even though it’s a basic right, women on-site have zero access to toilet facilities in some cases. 

7. Tideway (UK) 

Providing PPE for women across cultures and lifestages. Women working on-site at Tideway can request PPE suitable for pregnancy and religious / cultural reasons. They were the first company in the world to design PPE for women that observe the Hijab or Burqa. 

Marketplace challenges to gender equality

8. Stantec (Global) 

Adopted an international gender equality standard and used it as an innovative way to invest in women. Stantec is the first company in the world to adopt the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index as a sustainability linked loan metric. Any savings linked to achieving their gender goals with be directed towards activities or organisations that have a positive influence on the future of the environment and society. 

Community challenges to gender equality.

9. Nasa (US) 

Inspiring girls and women with success stories. Following the last minute cancellation of the first-ever all woman space mission due to not having a spacesuit designed for a woman’s body (!), Nasa is upping its game and highlighting stories of women leading successful careers in space science. 2025 will see the first woman on the moon via the Artemis mission, and they will ensure she has her own spacesuit this time. 

10. Betchtel (UK) 

Bringing men into the conversation. ‘Men Advocating Real Change’ workshops provide employees with an opportunity to reflect on their behaviour and the impact it has on others – within the company and beyond. They are the first company in the industry to be awarded with the international ISO standard in Diversity & Inclusion. 

The opportunity: Action is being taken to change the image and infrastructure of the industry and get more women to the table at all levels of the pipeline, but getting women to ‘the top’ and closing the pay gap is going to take longer than in other sectors. Progress could be accelerated by more companies joining together in their efforts and partnering with industry bodies and associations (as some are already doing). The impact of this will see more employment opportunities for women worldwide, where there is significant demand for workers, and future-proofed jobs that last for an entire career. 

Chapter 4: Healthcare 

Healthcare is an industry where the stakes are at the highest for gender equality – it is literally a case of life or death for many girls and women. Historically, lower representation of women in decision-making roles has led to a gender gap in the research, treatment and cures for many diseases and conditions, and overall quality of life that impacts women. What’s positive to see is that the industry is experiencing an awakening that women’s health needs are different to the default ‘male’, and companies are taking action. 

Workplace challenges to gender equality 

1. Abbott (North America) 

Entry level programmes to encourage more diverse talent. At the C-Suite level of Healthcare, whilst only 30% are women, that number drops to 4% for non-white women. (McKinsey, 2019). Through Abbott’s Freedom 2 Save program, the company makes 401(k) contributions for employees that are paying off their college loans. Non-white students are found to graduate with more debt than their white peers, so this scheme is helping the company to attract and retain diverse talent who will become the leaders of the future. 

2. Roche (Europe, Middle East & Africa) 

Investment in coaching for mid-senior level women. We have been coaching women at Roche for several years at our Open Shine events in the UK and Germany. It’s had a profound impact on the individuals we’ve worked with, such as Stella. 

3. Johnson & Johnson (North America) 

Encouraging lost women STEM talent back into the pipeline. Re-Ignite is a paid returners programme for people with transferrable skills that have taken an extended break from employment. 

4. Biosense Webster (North America) 

Leadership programmes for women with the aim of solving some of women’s biggest health problems. In partnership with the Heart Rhythm Society, the Growth and Leadership Opportunity for Women in Electrophysiology (GLOWE) puts women physicians in positions of power and simultaneously addresses much needed research into cardiac disorders in women. 

5. Maven Health (Global) 

Providing personalised care for women across major employers globally. Maven Clinic is the largest clinic for women’s and family health, is female-founded and 90% of providers are women.  

6. Highlighting all of the companies that have committed to support women’s reproductive health in countries where access is limited. 

In light of recent events in the US with the overturning of Roe V. Wade, many companies including (but not limited to) WPP, Warner Brothers, Disney, Meta, Ford, Patagonia, Google, Adobe, Vox Media, PWC, Danone and Walmart have extended their employee benefits to include travel expenses for medical purposes. This not only supports the women in need of reproductive care, but also hopefully will put demand and pressure on governments and society to change policy. 

Marketplace challenges to gender equality. 

  1. GSK (Global) 

Ensuring diversity in clinical trials. A commitment to including females in medical research that contributes to improved treatments and cures for women. Over 75% of interventional clinical trials must now have a clear demographic plan. 

  1. Elvie (Global) 

Tech and innovation that meets the specific needs of the female body. Elvie is female-founded, selling products created from the belief that women’s health and wellbeing have been ignored, misunderstood and underestimated for too long. 

Community challenges to gender equality 

9. Reckitt (Global) 

Using brand influence and expertise to protect women’s health in the developing world. One example is their work in Thailand as part of a Durex campaign, which saved the government £122m a year and helped prevent STIs in school-aged girls. 

10.Bupa (Global) 

Challenging women employees to drive their overall sustainability agenda. The Eco-Disruptive Global Innovation Challenge is comprised of over 60% women, tasked with solving health problems and future-proofing the planet. 

The opportunity: Again, companies should focus on building confidence and influence in their mid-senior level women, to support them through ‘the endless juggle’. Not only will more women at the top ensure a gender balance within the industry, but the representation of women at the highest levels should become a catalyst for investment and improvement in girls’ and women’s health throughout the planet. 

Chapter 5: Travel & Tourism 

Reflecting on the industry as a whole, there are a huge variety of different roles and specialisms, and the overall gender balance is massively skewed because of the jobs that women typically take on. Whilst there are more women in low-paid service positions, there are more men in senior management (because of the normal drop-out reasons), and technical jobs (e.g., pilots, sea farers), both areas which command the highest salaries. The pipeline doesn’t flow so well as other industries because of this discord of skills and experience. COVID hit hard, and whilst 1000s of people lost their jobs, there is now a massive recruitment drive to keep up with fresh demand. The amount of turbulence (ahem) the industry has experienced continues – the pandemic is far from over for them. 

Workplace challenges to gender equality

1. United Airlines (US) 

Established a flight school to train more women pilots. 50% of their 10,000 new pilot intake at the Aviate Academy will be women and non-white people, and they welcome people in the industry to retrain – they have several flight attendants that have upskilled to go from serving the plane to flying it!   

2. Renfe (Saudi Arabia) 

A recruitment scheme for women train drivers in Saudi Arabia. Women weren’t allowed to drive cars in the country until as recently as 2018, but when the railway operator launched a campaign to recruit 30 women train drivers, 28,000 applied! Women’s participation in the Saudi workforce has doubled in the last 5 years to 33% and women are now taking on jobs previously seen as ‘for men’. 

3. Wyndham (US) 

Encouraging more women hoteliers. The ‘Own the Room’ initiative supports and advances the progress of women-owned hotels through financial education, training and community. Wyndham see this as key to building back better post-COVID. 

4. Carnival (Global) 

Providing inclusive benefits to enable more women to work at sea. Their biggest gender divide is in fleet roles, so they have introduced antenatal care at sea (pregnant women were previously ‘grounded’), and they now allow women to delay their return to work for up to 5 years after they have a baby. 

5. Heathrow (UK) 

A gender-balanced leadership team at the helm of their most high-profile project. The runway extension is being led by a woman exec and balanced team surrounding her. If successful, it’s a great opportunity to highlight senior women within the industry. 

6. Hilton (Global) 

Building an alternative gender-balanced board of future leaders. Where they lack equal representation of women at the most senior levels now, the Board of Future Leaders prepares high potential talent for leadership positions at the same time as involving them to drive innovation and creativity so that their impact is felt earlier in the pipeline. 

Marketplace challenges to gender equality 

7. Easyjet (UK) 

Consciously building back better. Like United Airlines in the US, Easyjet are also striving to increase the number of women pilots flying their planes and part of this is about highlighting the positive role models already out there in the workforce. In 2022 as the industry started to build back up, they launched a campaign featuring a mother of two and Easyjet pilot with her five-year old daughter Kiki to inspire other women to apply. They have also invested in personal development for teams that are being brought back into the office post-COVID by offering Rise and Shine sessions with us here at Shine For Women.  

8. AirBnb (Global) 

Providing a new source of income for women around the world. Women who have previously not worked or have stepped out of their careers are now creating thriving businesses from renting out properties on the platform. In fact, women have been proven to be more successful hosts than men, with a greater number of 5* reviews. 

Community challenges to gender equality

9. GoLightly (Global) 

A Travel company that provides safe travel for women. Invite-only vacation rentals for women that provides assurance for both customers and hosts. 

 10. Uber (Australia) 

Empowering women drivers to select which passengers they want to accept. Following cases of violence and intimidation towards women drivers, in Australia they now have the ‘Women Rider Preference’ option to select only female and non-binary passengers. 

The opportunity: Whilst it is a complex time for Travel organisations right now, they could use this moment as an opportunity to ‘build back better’ and ensure that there are recruitment decisions being made that are inclusive of women. Evolving policies and processes now to better support women, will open up the talent pool and help solve the talent shortage. For these newly created teams, companies can reset and energise their corporate cultures and ensure that the leaders of the future will include an equal representation of women. Fixing the top of the pipeline in Travel and Tourism, which provides 1 in 10 jobs globally, of which over 50% are held by women currently in lower-paid roles, will mean a significant number of women in the world move into higher paid positions: it will have a big impact on the overall global gender pay gap. 

Chapter 6: FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) / Consumer Packaged Goods) 

The challenge for FMCG / CPG companies is that they have a responsibility for a greater number of people in that their operations not only impact employees and customers, but also those who live and work where they source, farm, and manufacture products. The 17 UN Sustainable Goals run across all areas of FMCG operations, arguably more so than any other industry, and so these companies are under a lot of pressure to get better, at everything. So ‘Gender Equality’, as #5 of the 17, is part of a much bigger programme.

Workplace challenges to gender equality.

1. L’Oréal (Global) 

Empowering women and girls in STEM through multiple initiatives. Fondation L’Oréal is a dedicated part of the business, focused on supporting women through scientific research (where only 14% of senior researchers are women), inclusive beauty (to help empower women out of poverty) and climate action (because climate change disproportionally impacts more women than men). For over 20 years, Fondation L’Oréal initiatives such as the ‘Women in Science’, ‘Young Talents’, and ‘International Rising Talents’ programmes, as well as the L’Oréal-UNESCO International Award have supported thousands of women scientists around the globe. 

2. Nomad Foods (Global) 

A programme to build confidence in mid-senior women. In recognition of their pay gap data, Nomad have been working with us for several years to build confidence in their mid-senior level women. Results have shown that these women feel more confident and connected, are paying more attention to their impact and they’re more empowered to be a leader of change for the organisation.  

3. Shiseido (Japan) 

Providing benefits to support working parents. Shiseido offers onsite and subsidised childcare facilities because they believe that the #1 reason that mid-senior women drop out in Asia is when they have children. They’ve provided this since 2003 and were early pioneers of flexible working hours for parents with school-age children, first introducing it in the 1990s. This has contributed to them establishing themselves as a workforce of 80% women, with 58.3% women in leadership positions globally. 

4. William Grant (UK) 

A programme to build confidence in women in technical roles. William Grant has been providing Shine For Women programmes for their mid-senior women for the last four years, and during this time we have worked with a mixture of HQ and distillery workers – an area of the business where they aim to grow the number of women in senior leadership. 

Marketplace challenges to gender equality

5. Diageo (Global) 

Taking responsibility for the stereotypes they represent when marketing their products. Together with companies such as WPP, Meta, Google, Mars, Microsoft, Adobe, Kantar, Ogilvy and Mondelez, Diageo is part of the Unstereotype Alliance and critiques all advertising across all of their brands and products to make sure that the way women are portrayed is modern and progressive. 

Community challenges to gender equality

6. Proctor & Gamble (Thailand) 

Breaking norms of women in the supply chain, one market at a time. The majority of managers and technicians in their Bangkok factory are women, with 70% on the leadership team, 50% of whom are are working mothers.  

7. Pepsico (Global) 

Building better and empowering women farmers with sustainable methods. Pepsico are addressing social and environmental issues simultaneously with their ‘She Feeds the World’ initiative. Partnering with the organisation CARE, they’ve provided over 5 million female farmers and their families with education, resources and economic support. As a result, crop yields, nutrition and income levels have increased. 

8. Unilever (Global) 

Expanding opportunities in the value retail chain by empowering women. Women make up the majority of micro-distributors of Unilever products in the developing world, so they are supporting them with training, financial advice and coaching to ensure thriving businesses (and they’ve increased sales for Unilever at the same time). For example in Kenya, more than 20,000 retailers have enrolled and are seeing on average a monthly sales increase of 20%. 54% of them are women. 

9. Coca Cola (Global) 

Economically empowering millions of women around the world. The 5by20 initiative has improved the lives of women through hundreds of projects. These include training girls and women in STEM skills, providing financial advice for women-run SMEs and investing in female-founded startups within developing markets. In 2010 they set a goal to economically empower 5 million women by 2020, and they exceeded this by over a million. 

10. Tata (India) 

Using their brand platform to advance progress for women. For years, the multi-award winning Jaago Re (meaning ‘Wake Up’) campaign for Tata Tea has advanced the position of women in Indian society, from giving sufferers of domestic violence a voice to lobbying women to take their vote and the government to make gender sensitisation programmes compulsory in schools. The 2014 ‘Power of 49’ campaign not only increased sales of tea by nearly 14%, it also increased voter intention in Indian women by 300%. 

The opportunity: with progress still to be made to gender equality within their own organisations at the most senior levels, plus so much to get right across the full supply chain, and against the targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, companies have a lot to do. That’s on top of keeping consumers happy and profits healthy. The sweet spot is in creating efficiencies of effort: introducing meaningful initiatives that simultaneously empower both corporate women and those ‘on the ground’. It’s proven that getting this right can achieve both ethical and financial results.   

Chapter 7: Tech 

Gender equality in Technology is immediately impacted by the lack of women in STEM careers, and it is also hit by the speed at which roles and skillsets have to change in order to keep up with demand and innovation. It’s a field that historically has been very hard to re-enter, should a person ever step out for a period of time, and this has an obvious impact on caregivers. The issue is, that without the representation of senior women in Technology, across all industries this means gender pay gaps, but also gaps in the way women are treated within evolving society. 

Workplace challenges to gender equality. 

1. Cisco (Global) 

A free-to-access platform providing education and inspiration on all things tech. The Women Rock-IT programme highlights opportunities for girls to have careers in Tech and connects them to women leaders across the field. 

2. Peak 6 (US) 

A female-founded fintech investment company that has two internship programmes exclusively for women. These are specifically designed to get more women into Tech and trading – two career tracks that have a significant gender imbalance. 

3. Microsoft (Global) 

A skills programme for girls and women designed to support them across the entire pipeline. There are three tracks to the TeachHer programme– entry-level, returners and professionals looking to improve their long-term career prospects. 

4. IBM (US) 

Putting pressure on the government to shape policy for working families. IBM helped to establish a multi-industry coalition of companies and trade associations to promote family leave policies before US Congress and the White House.  

5. Spotify (Global) 

Providing flexible working for all employees. In 2019, Spotify introduced a Work From Anywhere policy for all 6500 employees, reducing attrition and increasing diverse representation. In the US, between 2019 and 2021, the amount of women in leadership positions increased from 25% to 42%. They are now partnering with the Stockholm School of Economics to research the impact of the approach on creativity, wellbeing, collaboration and energy, in order to publish a blueprint for other companies. 

Marketplace challenges to gender equality. 

6. Salesforce (Global) 

Encouraging women to return to a career in Tech, by bringing their skills up to date. The Bring Women Back To Work initiative allows companies to recruit women that have left the workforce for an extended period. This runs across multiple companies not just Salesforce. 

7.Reddit (US) 

Encouraging men to take parental leave and therefore the same careers breaks as many women. Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian is a passionate advocate for non-birthing parents to take the parental leave offered to them – particularly in response to toxic masculinity. The company provides a flexible policy to allow families to structure their leave the best way to suit them. 

Community challenges to gender equality 

8. Etsy (Global) 

Providing women with new opportunities to establish their own incomes. 87% of storefronts are owned by women, 97% of sellers work from home and 80% are a business of one person. Not only that, 56% of the HQ workforce are women, and 52% of leadership. They also offer one of the longest parental leave policies in US-based Tech (26 weeks). 

 9. Affectiva (Global) 

Overcoming gender bias in AI. A double female-founded company that is on a mission to humanize technology. Its AI detects emotions and the dataset on which its built is 50% women – something that has historically not been the case across other AI technologies.  

 10. Bumble (US) 

Continually using innovation to drive progress for women, not perpetuate existing inequalities. Female-founded and with a women majority, Bumble flips the rules as a brand – through their product and in how they lobby for wider societal change. 85% of employees and 80% of the exec team are women. They changed the law in Texas to prevent people sending unsolicited nude photos, and advanced technology to automatically blur a nude photo sent to a phone. 

The opportunity: Technology companies are known for pushing the boundaries and providing more benefits than seen in other industries (think of the famous Google offices for example).   It’s been a young, fun and vibrant place to work, but sometimes on a superficial level, and often appealing to the same types of people (white men) that set up the companies in the first place. Whilst this has long attracted talent, organisations should think about which benefits will genuinely move the dial for marginalised groups, including women. It’s morally right, and essential to addressing the looming talent shortage. Focussing efforts on women in specialist areas of Tech typically where they are most underrepresented and ensuring that working parents are empowered to take the time they need to care for dependents, and, successfully return with the skills needed to keep up with momentum, will make Technology as a career appeal more to young women at the start of the pipeline. And as we see throughout this entire report, not enough women in Tech is a recurring theme and reason for gender pay gaps, a lack of women-focussed innovation and lost financial gains across all industries and sectors.  

Chapter 8: Utilities and Services 

The gender equality challenge for Utilities and Services sits somewhere in the middle of Construction, Manufacturing & Engineering (less STEM women full stop), FMCG (a need to prove they’re addressing all environmental and social issues at the same time and targets from the highest levels) and Tech (a massive skew in their gender gap because of the highest paid roles being technical). There also exist some specific obstacles for senior women such as the need to spend time offshore, and the need to put (anyone) into thousands of new jobs that will be created as the sector evolves to meet Net Zero.  

Workplace challenges to gender equality

1. General Electric (Global) 

A hands-on programme designed to encourage girls into STEM careers. Over 10 years GE Girls has supported thousands of girls into higher education across science, technology, engineering and maths. 

2. Shell (Global) 

Launched a campaign to highlight the gender inequality and prejudice faced by women in STEM careers. Shell wanted to drive home the message with #MakeTheFuture that companies are doing great work to encourage girls into STEM, but when they get into the industry as educated women, they are often discouraged.  

3. EDF (UK) 

An initiative to bring more women into the leadership talent pool. Talent 2.0 was a targeted campaign across areas of the business that were under-represented by women, in particular Nuclear energy where they have committed to 40% women representation by 2030. EDF recognised that women were less likely to put themselves forward for promotion so they came to them. These mid-level women were invited to take online assessments that looked at their entire skillset and their potential to become senior leaders. In the first year, 45% women were promoted internally. 

4. BHP (Australia) 

Undertaking multiple ‘small’ projects that make a big difference to gender parity. Rather than just offering the industry norm of 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off to all fly-in fly-out employees, they created 13 different flexible working options. 

5. Schlumburger (Global) 

Supporting women in global mobility opportunities Any roles that demand a move abroad are considered as impactful on a couple or family, and support and consideration of circumstances is provided for all parties via the Dual Careers programme. This benefits women either as employees, or as the spouse who would otherwise struggle to maintain their own career, and in cases of mothers, manage a family. 

6 . Maersk (India) 

Creating accessible policies for women working offshore. Only 3% of seafarers at Maersk are women, so they have set a target to increase this. At the same time they are identifying ways to make these roles more accessible for women, including deploying women in pairs, and allowing for flexibility in the length of deployment at sea across their careers. In India, the Maersk Women Seafarers’ Cadet programme ambitiously aims to increase the proportion of women cadets from 7.6% to 50% in 2027. They will be trained with technical and social skills, and the company will make changes to infrastructure to create a psychologically and physically safe environment for women. 

Marketplace challenges to gender equality

7. Rio Tinto (Australia) 

A scheme to recruit women who have never previously worked in the industry. With significantly less women than men in the mining sector, the company realised that by opening up recruitment to women with transferrable skills in defence, aviation, government and education, they could increase representation and diversity of thinking, and speed up the pipeline. Over 3,000 women applied to the Transferrable Pathways scheme. 

8. Centrica (UK) 

Ensuring 50% of Net Zero engineer apprentices are women. The company is midway through its target of recruiting 1000 apprentices in 2 years, half of which will be women. These people will be trained as Smart Energy engineers meaning not only will Centrica boost the percentage of women in their workforce (currently 8%), but they will also equip them with the skills needed to build a future-proofed career. 

Community challenges to gender equality .

9. SPCG Public Company (South East Asia) 

Accelerating the progress of clean energy and women simultaneously. Wandee Kunchornyakong is the Founder, Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer of SPCG Public Company, a pioneer in solar energy in Thailand and the wider ASEAN community. She recently won an award for the work SPCG has done in reducing carbon emissions by around 200,000 tonnes a year, and the company’s workforce is at 60% women. 

 10.ReNew Power (India) 

Economically empowering local women to ensure that the clean energy industry is not making the mistakes of the past. From one of the largest renewable energy companies in India, the ReNew India Women Initiative seeks to provide women with the financial literacy and tools to become successful entrepreneurs, with their own income and therefore ability to withstand the challenges that climate change and the fossil fuels industry has and will continue to bring them. 

The opportunity: whilst there exists complexity behind the current gender gap in Utilities and Services, what is clear is that the entire industry, the products they sell, and the way in which they make them are going to change dramatically and rapidly. The progression and skills development of women can only be a great thing in this situation, not least because they are the ones that will be most affected by climate change. Companies should be looking to retain their talented women, and ensure that the ‘new’ industry is set up in ways that enable them to continue their careers throughout the pipeline. This particularly means changing the rules around how to progress to senior leadership (e.g. long periods of time spent away and in unsafe conditions). Perhaps a ‘new’ industry will be more appealing to girls considering Utilities and Services careers, than the old one.  

Chapter 9: Fashion, Retail & QSR 

Much like Travel & Tourism, some parts of the industry have suffered significantly from the impact of the pandemic, particularly in-store workers. The progression of women through this part of the pipeline is impacted by the fact that in-store management requires working at a pay level, contract terms and during hours that aren’t often compatible with sustainable and affordable childcare. In e-commerce, the same challenges seen with the wider tech industry (less women in STEM) occur. The percentage of women in senior leadership across many companies is balanced, however there is still work to be done because much like with FMCG / CPG, there is significant gender inequality in the supply chain. 

Workplace challenges to gender equality

1. Next (UK) 

An online marketplace where store workers can swap shifts or take on additional hours. This means that a once inflexible job role is more flexible, and that low-paid workers (80% of which are women) can sustain working and progress within the company around family commitments. 

2. Burberry (Global) 

A global parental leave policy for all employees. Providing a person has worked for the company for at least 12 months, they will get 18 weeks fully paid leave and the opportunity to work 80% of their hours upon their return. That is for both head office and in-store employees. Two thirds of Burberry’s workforce are women, and the company has the highest proportion of women in its executive team and direct report positions in the FTSE 100.  

3. Amazon (US) 

Paying for women employees’ infertility treatment from day one, at all levels. Infertility treatment in the US is very expensive and simply unattainable for much of the population. Whilst over 40% of companies with at least 20,000 employees now cover IVF, Amazon is one of very few that provide treatment coverage for ‘non HQ’ staff, and it also kicks in from their first day in the job. As this article outlines, however, it does create new challenges for women, who are struggling within a healthcare system that’s not designed with them in mind.  

4. Yoox Net-A-Porter (UK) 

A sponsoring scheme to ‘lift’ up women in technology. Whilst 60% of total employees and more than half of middle and senior management are women, the company is still not satisfied with its gender balance. As an online retailer technology is central to their business model, and only 30% of that team are women. So, they launched the Women in Tech sponsorship programme to pair managers in technology with their senior business leaders, enabling them to share insights with each other and increase representation of women technologists.  

Marketplace challenges to gender equality

5. Yum! Brands (US) 

The first University business programme focussed on Franchising for women and people of colour. The aim of the Center for Global Franchise Excellence is to educate and empower more underrepresented people into management and entrepreneurship on the ground across their restaurant brands.  

6. Target (US) 

Labelling all women-owned products on their website to make it easier for customers to support these brands. Each company has to be certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) as at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by women. Target announced a focus on developing a workforce that reflects its customers in 2021, and currently 58% of their store workers and 50% of leadership are women. Half of their stores are run by women. 

Community challenges to gender equality

7. Walgreen Boots Alliance (US) 

Levelling the playing field for small minority-owned businesses. Walgreens has partnered with the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) in Chicago to sponsor the Top Shelf Capacity programme. It helps minority-owned suppliers learn how to negotiate, mitigate risk, manage distribution and contracts when working with large retailers, plus feeds the pipeline of diverse suppliers the company works with. 

8. Ikea (South Asia) 

Adapting working conditions to accommodate women workers. Ikea transformed the way in which their rugs are made in India and Bangladesh, firstly by moving the weaving centres closer to villages so that workers didn’t need to be apart from their families for long periods of time. They also developed a brand-new loom design which requires much less physical strength to operate. This has introduced weaving as a new career choice for women – and not just employees of Ikea. They have purposefully not patented it to enable the technology to benefit others. 

9. H&M (South Asia) 

A leadership programme for women supervisors in the supply chain. In H&M, 76% of employees globally are women, and 72% of leaders. However, they rely on 1.5 million people across 40 countries to make their products. Most of these are women but only 27% are supervisors. Each country brings its own unique cultural and societal complexities, so initiatives are very much at a grass-roots level. In Bangladesh, in partnership with the International Finance Corporation and Better Work, they’ve enrolled women across 27 factories to take part in a leadership programme, which in 2021 contributed to 87 women being promoted. They have switched to paying women workers digitally to empower them into the modern financial system. It also removes the vulnerability that comes with them needing to carry around large amounts of cash. 

 10. Nike (Global) 

Putting pressure on their suppliers to reach gender equality and therefore benefitting women across the supply chain. Currently the suppliers Nike works with consist of on average 79% women production operators, but only 28% women management. Men are advanced to initial leadership roles at 3.5 times the rate of women. Nike has now created a tool to measure the progress their suppliers are making to change this, across 10 different areas. In 2021 95% were on target to reach the desired standards, and by 2025 Nike say they expect 100% of suppliers to have reached ‘mature gender equitable capability’. 

The opportunity: with gender equality in head office management on its way to being reached, attention should be paid to the start of the pipeline where there’s a rich pool of experienced women talent who need support in progressing through to seniority. Applying some of this learning to women in the supply chain will also see more women progress there. Overall this will ensure that the industry better represents the customers it sells to.  

Chapter 10: Advertising, Media & Marketing 

Much like technology, this is a dynamic industry driving cultural change, but with higher-paid technical roles disproportionally held by men that lead to a pay gap. With infamous sexual harassment and abuse cases and the resulting #MeToo movement, women have often struggled to progress fairly and safely, but standards have changed and progress is being made.  

Workplace challenges to gender equality 

1. WPP (Global) 

Working with 1000s of mid-senior women to support them through ‘the endless juggle’. Shine For Women has worked with WPP and its agency brands such as AKQA, Kantar and GroupM since 2016 and during that time almost 3,000 of their mid-senior women around the world have seen their confidence build, and connections with other women in the company made. Now, 52% of senior managers globally are women and women on the board has increased from 27% to 43% in 4 years. 83% of women employees believe the company is committed to creating an inclusive working culture.  

2. The Talent Manager (UK) 

Promoting job shares in TV to enable more women to stay in the talent pool. All major broadcasters use The Talent Manager to recruit freelancers, for production roles that typically require inflexible hours and/or on location. In 2020 they added a feature to their website allowing people to position themselves as a ‘job-sharer’, as well as providing supporting content for both freelancers and production companies, and partnering with a job-sharing community, Share My Telly  

3. Netflix (Global) 

Pay transparency and parity across leadership. Their ‘Open Compensation’ approach means that the top 1,000 leaders in the organisation can see how much any employee gets paid, which invites open and honest conversations about gender disparity and pay gaps, with action taken to make pay fair and equal. 

4. The WonderWorks (UK) 

A mobile nursery for film workers with families. Their mission is for no parent to ever have to choose between their job or their family again. High quality mobile childcare facilities can be delivered to production sites enabling workers to fit in with unconventional hours in the knowledge their children are being looked after, at an affordable cost. 

Marketplace challenges to gender equality

5. VCCP (UK) 

The CEO co-founded an industry-wide initiative to avoid unnecessary pitching. Julian Douglas helped introduce the Pitch Positive Pledge, which brings together agencies and clients to make pitching more intentional, accountable and responsible. This includes reducing the demands on the people working on the pitch, and the people covering their day-jobs.  

Community challenges to gender equality.

6. ITV (UK) 

An industry-wide initiative to advance gender balance in comedy. Having established Comedy 50:50 in 2018 to put pressure on the wider industry to equally represent men and women writers in comedy, ITV moved this on in 2019 and changed the terms of their Social Partnership Commissioning Commitments. They no longer commission any comedy show with an all-male writing team.  

7. Comcast NBCUniversal (US) 

An initiative created to increase the number of women directors in scripted programming. Female Forward is part of a wider effort to increase representation amongst women, ethnically diverse men and non-binary directors. Directors take part in workshops, work shadowing, and build their professional networks in order to have a successful career in episodic programming, and it comes from a recognition it’s only in this way that TV content will be authentic and impactful for diverse audiences.  

8. Channel 4 (UK) 

Empowering women within their organisation and wider society simultaneously. Channel 4 launched the UK Media industry’s first menopause policy and improved health for the public with previously uncovered menopause content. An internal survey found that since launching the policy 78% of employees feel better about Channel 4 as a place to work. Following their broadcast of the documentary Davina McCall: Sex, Myths and the Menopause in 2021, demand for HRT in the UK surged by 30% in the month following. 

9. Warner Media (Global) 

Tackling gender bias portrayed to children via animation. Kids’ TV brings its own dimension of gender bias – in the way that non-human characters default to male. Think Thomas the Tank Engine, Minions, SpongeBob SquarePants – they are a train, little alien-like creatures and a sponge, but they’re all distinctly male. In fact, it’s believed only 30% are ever ‘women’. Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. Animation are actively changing this. Currently in development, 54% of protagonist characters and 52% of lead characters are female.  

 10. BBC (UK) 

Establishing a gender balance across contributors. The 50:50 challenge was launched in 2018 to make sure that an equal number of men and women appeared on the BBC as ‘experts’. Male experts had contributed to shows 3 times out of 4 up to this point, but in 2019, nearly three quarters of all BBC news and current affairs programmes had a gender balance. Since then more than 20 other Media companies signed up to copy the challenge, including the FT and ABC News. 

The opportunity: There are still ways in which the industry is set up that are not conducive to being a working mother, however things are moving in the right direction. More bravery in partnering with clients to lead the way and evolve out of date attitudes will accelerate progress further, as well as supporting mid-senior level women before they drop out of their careers. Gender-balanced leadership at the top will drive equality in decision-making and creativity and will ensure that Advertising and Media continue to move societies forward, and with that, women. 


100 companies taking positive action on gender quality is a lot to take in. If helpful, here are some top line observations as to how all industries can drive gender equality within the workplace, the market and the community. 

  1. Ensure physical and psychological safety for women. 
  1. Focus efforts on the STEM parts of your business, throughout the entire pipeline. 
  1. Build confidence in mid-senior women so that you support them through the tough times they face juggling their work and home life. 
  1. Develop a strategy and meaningful benefits to support working parents.  
  1. Connect up efforts throughout the business; think of clever ways to simultaneously advance different groups of women with a single workstream. 
  1. ERGs are great but having them does not mean you are fixing gender inequality if you don’t take action elsewhere. 
  1. Bring men on the journey to gender equality. Champion the efforts they make such as taking their share of parental leave, or sponsoring women within the business. 
  1. Shout loudly and proudly about the work you are doing to accelerate women. It has taken a long time to research this report, and in a candidate-driven market, your potential talent may not bother.   

Share this article with your colleagues and the people around you and encourage a healthy discussion. And for anything else, follow us on social media or get in touch via email but remember when women thrive, men thrive, business thrives.  

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