L’Oreal Is The 1st Company In The US To Receive Gender Equality Certification

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If you just read that title and are wondering what the heck we are talking about, allow us to backtrack a little and give some background and context.

In 2009 an organization called the Economic Dividends for Gender Equality was founded by Nicole Schwab (whose father is World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab) and Aniela Unguresano to be a new regulatory body, if you will, for global businesses and how they fare in terms of gender equality in the work place. It was conceived to be similar to the LEED Certification for energy efficiency.

Two years later EDGE was launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and is a certification which awards various companies a “seal of approval” for the emphasis and efforts they place on this important issue.

The certification examines five broad areas: pay equity, how men and women are recruited and promoted, the equality of leadership development training and sponsorship, what flexible work policies and practices are in place, and the overall company culture. Do policies ensure men and women have equal access to critical jobs? Does the language in recruitment materials appeal to both genders? Is the company making active efforts to encourage men, not just women, to take advantage of flexible work programs?

So basically, if you are buying a product, you will soon be able to know whether it comes from a brand that advocates diversity and gender equality. We like the sound of that!

An announcement on the EDGE website on Women’s Equality Day stated that beauty brand L’Oreal has just become the first American brand to receive the seal of approval. They took six months to review the company’s gender policies and survey more than 3,000 of its workers about equal pay, company culture, and general gender equality in the workplace.

“L’Oréal understands that gender equality is critical to our success across all areas of business and also gives us a competitive edge. The EDGE certification brings us a new level of accountability, transparency and a clear understanding of how to benchmark our progress,” said Angela Guy, L’Oréal USA Senior Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion. “We’re committed to taking leadership on this issue and will continue to develop innovative solutions toward achieving ongoing gender balance.”

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She does mention that gender equality doesn’t just mean a focus on women, but a balance for both men and women. She says that the company is made up of 65% women and 35% men.

“We’re happy to be such a welcoming workplace for women, but we’re working to bring more men on board to balance the numbers,” she told Fast Company in an interview about the exciting announcement.

Since it was launched in January 2011, more than 60 companies in 29 countries use the EDGE assessment methodology and certification process to create an optimal, balanced workplace for men and women. The methodology and standard enables a company to accurately assess how it performs both at a country and a global level.

“L’Oréal USA is a pioneer in its industry and in the U.S. by achieving certification,” said Aniela Unguresan, co-founder of EDGE Certified Foundation. “The process is very rigorous and requires a high level of transparency. As a result of its certification, L’Oréal is showing consumers, investors and employees alike that they are genuinely committed to an issue that is crucial to success in a global marketplace.”

There is a wide spectrum of companies looking to be certified by EDGE, including American software company SAP. EDGE was initially focused on local European businesses, where the Swedish offices of Ikea and Deloitte were the first to sign on to the initiative. But now it seems many other brands and corporations are realizing the value in being accountable to the public about their diversity breakdown.

We’ve seen a huge trend in sharing details of gender breakdown and diversity in the tech world, where many well-known brands such as Google, Yahoo and Facebook are releasing diversity reports to appeal to a wider user base. The EDGE certification takes it to a whole other level, where a third party body is going through the company with a fine-toothed comb and allowing them to see the areas they need to work on the most.

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“A lot of companies say ‘we’re committed to this. But increasingly there’s a need to have a third party, independent party, saying their commitment is genuine,” EDGE co-founder Aniela Unguresan says.

The Atlantic asks the question whether this form of accountability and certification will increase customer loyalty, and liken the EDGE certification to that of Fair Trade.

“People love feeling good about their purchases. Ninety percent of respondents to a survey done last year by Conecomm, an American public-relations agency, said they’d be more loyal to a company that seemed socially responsible,” writes Joe Pinsker, and we certainly believe the public and companies can only benefit from an initiative like this.

Some of the standards the certification has for board composition is that each gender must have at least 30 percent representation in order to have a real voice. At the junior management level it doesn’t set an absolute level for gender makeup but looks at how well each company is retaining those young managers from year to year.

It also asks each company about their benefits and policies, such as maternity-leave programs. Yet rather than comparing how many paid weeks each company offers, it looks at how many of the women who take maternity leave and return are still at the company a year later.

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“If they make the choice to come back and they’re not there 12 months after they made that decision, it means the environment is not there to help them cope with their new roles as new parents,” Aniela Unguresan says.

Her hope is that EDGE becomes not only something companies want to show off on their packaging, their recruitment materials or their annual reports, but something that has a broader impact on the number of women in leadership positions.

“First, we need to get to the critical mass where having this certification seal becomes a competitive advantage,” she says. “Second will be when not having it is a competitive disadvantage.”

There is no news yet when (or if) consumers will get to see the actual certification on the products they buy, but what we are seeing here is a major marketplace shift toward something that will hopefully impact consumer choices knowing gender equality is a focus of the brand.

US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (pictured above) is working with EDGE to move the notion of gender equality from dialogue to action.

“If we are ever going to out educate, out build and out innovate the global competition, American women are going to lead the way. It is essential that we update our workplace policies to reflect this reality – so our economy can grow stronger, and our families can achieve some financial security.”

Here’s to more companies running, not walking, to receive this certification or work hard until they do. We see this as a very positive step in encouraging more women and ethnic minorities to work for companies which they perhaps never thought was possible before.

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4 Comments

  1. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story.

  2. Pingback: L'Oreal Just Signed Model Soo Joo Park As Their 1st Asian Global Ambassador

  3. Pingback: L'Oreal Is the 1st Company in the US to Receive...

  4. Pingback: The Other Lens: Drive Your Supply Chain Cost Improvement Project With A Gender Equity Review - Women Mean Business

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