Gender means business: how to create real and sustainable gender equality

Making the case for the incorporation of gender measures into the study of business and the practice of entrepreneurship. Gender Rise’s Yael Nevo draws on lessons from her work with LSE’s entrepreneurial arm

Beyond the ample evidence clearly proving that gender equality and diversity (as well as other forms of diversity) lead to better businesses, I believe that it is crucial to the survival of our society, environment and the sustainability of life as we know it. To achieve this, we need to treat this issue just as we address any other business goal.

LSE Generate supports students and alumni in building socially responsible businesses in the UK and beyond, providing the infrastructure to develop and scale brilliant startups. I started my collaboration with Generate’s Head, LJ Silverman in 2018, while she was looking to set an example for gender equality and diversity and create a clear strategy for the programme as they develop, and expand their international presence.

In order to ensure that LSE’s programme is able to not only be clear on its actions but also gain consistency and sustainability moving forward, we created the LSE Generate Gender-Sensitive Code of Conduct (the Code). This document includes the programme’s values, vision, its connection to stakeholders, and most importantly, a clear action plan. The Code is a living-breathing mechanism that is subject to review and change. The version that you can see in the link above is a new one, following its recent review.

Impact of a clear action plan on gender

Since the creation of the Code more than 3 years ago, LSE Generate has developed exponentially. It grew from a staff of two to a staff of about 20, plus many ambassadors and collaborators across the globe. It runs several accelerators, funding competitions, regular events, mentoring and business support, and opened international hubs in 11 countries and counting.

Within the first year of the creation of the Code, some of LSE Generate’s achievements were:

  • 50/50 gender balance among its:
    • Board of Directors
    • Accelerator programme participants
    • Funding competition judges
    • Events speakers
  • Doubling the targeted funding from LSE, donors, and investors
  • Specific gender focus in its international hubs
  • Proud winners of two national awards for inclusive innovations:
    • National Enterprise Network Award for Innovation in Education
    • National Enterprise Educators UK

Since January 2021, I’ve been serving as Generate’s inhouse Gender Equality Advisor, delivering regular training in its various accelerators, participating in events, supporting the staff in their day-to-day gender challenges and monitoring the Code on a regular basis.

This work could help provide other institutions and organisations with an example of best practice, demonstrating how gender equality and diversity can be created and what it takes to bring about sustainable and long-lasting achievements, namely:

  • Commitment from leadership
  • Clear and measurable strategy based on expert knowledge
  • Accountability

‘The work has allowed us to embed gender equality into the very DNA of our programming so that it is the default position when anyone in the team organises a single event or a new series of initiatives. Ensuring our various commitments are baked in from the get-go rather than sprinkled over as we go along, sends a message to our stakeholders – be that students or staff – of the importance that we place on the subject. That we walk the talk and that we believe fully that by doing so, change can happen.’

LJ Silverman, Head of LSE Generate

With these elements in place, and LSE Generate’s achievements so far, we are now looking to the next stage of growth and international impact by launching an investor’s initiative that will bring about practical solutions and commitment, based on founder’s experience, to address the gender gap in the venture capital (VC) industry.

Inaction enforces a masculine model

To recognise how crucial this work is, we need to understand that the public sphere at large, and the business world more specifically, has been designed in the image of men, and in many ways is still attentive to their needs and views. What we perceive as ‘normal’, is in fact gendered.

Our current world and the acute problems we are currently facing is a direct result of having the bulk of power, decision making and access to resources at the hands of one gender group, and often of one race and social class as well. To solve the tremendous challenges we are facing, we need everybody at the table.

The masculine image on which the business world has been designed is an old one. Not only that it does not match our progressive social mindset and the reality of the incorporation of women and LGBTQI+ persons in every part of the professional world, but also, in many ways it does not serve men anymore.

Therefore, the incorporation of gender strategy, policy and training in Business Schools and entrepreneurial programmes is vital to the creation of gender equality and diversity in business and beyond. If we don’t actively engage in this work, we are, in fact, enforcing a model that is not neutral, but masculine in its essence. By integrating this topic, we can build healthy foundations, instead of solving problems further down the line. Without it, serious problems are likely to come.

My work with LSE Generate serves as evidence of what can be achieved when working towards gender equality, and when diversity is taken seriously and addressed with strategy and accountability. Imagine what will happen when others join.

Gender policy applications for Business Schools

What does the incorporation of gender measures in Business Schools and entrepreneurship programme mean exactly?

  • Strategy – identify your own internal gender gaps (staff representation, pay, communication, recruitment, retainment etc.), then create an action plan based on measurable benchmarks
  • Policy and culture – make changes and create policies to address your identified gaps (for example, blind recruitment, quotas, longer paternity leave, flexi-work etc.), make them known to all stakeholder and have leadership set an example
  • Training – engage with facts, discuss the various causes for current gaps and trends, and explore practical solution that engage with the core reasons of these issues
  • Accountability – make your commitment known, review and report on your progress, celebrate success and address challenges to find new solutions

By incorporating gender measures into Business Schools and entrepreneurship programmes, we are doing much more than creating room at the table for underrepresented groups. With this work, we are building solid foundations on which we can move away from destruction towards sustainable creation. It is a work of hope.

Yael Nevo (She/Her) is a Gender Consultant and Founding Director of Gender Rise, helping companies and organisations achieve sustainable gender equality and diversity through strategy, policy and training.

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