Posted by Alastair Usher

‘Be bold for change’: Ergon’s work supporting gender equality

At Ergon, we know that progress towards gender equality means being bold: engaging different views, questioning preconceptions, and finding innovative ways to spur real change for women within and outside the workplace. However, change also requires perseverance. Ergon works with a range of organisations to open up dialogue on gender issues, identify opportunities and provide the tools that businesses need to make progress.

In recent years, we have worked with our clients to promote gender equality in a wide range of industries, many of them male-dominated or with entrenched occupational segregation including manufacturing, transport, oil & gas, energy, construction, mining, telecommunications and agribusiness. Today, we would like to highlight some of our recent contributions on gender equality in a variety of contexts.

  • International Finance Corporation (IFC) report: The Business Case for Women’s Employment in Agribusiness: This recently released report of a project led by Ergon’s Kirsten Newitt and Alastair Usher examines the business drivers for investing in women’s employment in agribusiness. It includes five company case studies across fruit production, fish and poultry processing, seed production and sugarcane processing over four continents. The report highlights practical steps that agribusiness companies can take to support women in the workplace and in supply chains. Ergon worked with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) on this project.
  • UN Women report: The Business Case for Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Arab States Region: An Ergon team drafted this report for UN Women, which was presented by Kirsten Newitt at a meeting of the Khadija Network at the Arab League late last year. The report sets out the macro-economic case for women’s participation in paid employment in the region, and why this is an important strategic issue for regional governments.
  • New IFC childcare report: Ergon is working with IWPR on a forthcoming flagship report for IFC, which aims to set out the business case for employer-supported childcare. Pins Brown has recently completed field research in Kenya, meeting with management and staff at a telecommunications company that provides onsite childcare, while Kirsten Newitt and Laura Curtze will travel to Turkey to discuss a childcare subsidy pilot with a leading steel manufacturer.
Direct support for companies
  • Supporting gender equality at Electricity Vietnam: Ergon has been commissioned by the World Bank to provide support to Electricity Vietnam (EVN), the state-owned electricity operator, to implement its Gender Action Plan. The project has a specific focus on strengthening human resource management frameworks and increasing women’s participation in management. Kirsten Newitt and Sarah McLeish recently visited Hanoi to conduct interviews with EVN management representatives and staff.
  • Equal opportunity in the Kosovo rail sector: Ergon is working with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to support one of its clients, Infrastructure of Kosovo Railways JSC (Infrakos), to improve its gender and age balance. Having developed tailored recommendations in 2016, an Ergon team led by Anne-Marie Lévesque will return to Kosovo in March 2017 to provide additional support and training to the company, focusing on strategic people management and specific challenges faced by women in transport.
  • Today, Pins Brown is participating in the EBRD’s International Women’s Day (IWD) panel discussion event on Breaking Stereotypes: Paving the Way to Equality, aiming to share learning on how to attract and retain professional women in ‘non-traditional’ sectors.
  • On 7th March, Kirsten Newitt contributed learning from Ergon’s experience to an Oxfam and Unilever IWD event on Why business should care about unpaid care work and social norms, in particular contributing examples of how and why businesses are addressing these topics.