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A scenic photo showing the #WD2023 sign for the Women Deliver Conference in Rwanda.

Insights from Women Deliver 2023 for Companies Ready to Act

by Jamie Kownas, Global Corporate Partnerships, Save the Children 

Feminism and the patriarchy are trending topics right now, thanks to the massive buzz and record-setting national box office numbers generated by the movie, “Barbie.” Having recently returned from the Women Deliver conference in Kigali, Rwanda, I was struck by the similarities between the themes of this fun, technicolor treat of a film and the pressing, real-world gender issues raised at the conference.

While “Barbie” and Women Deliver couldn’t be packaged more differently, both offer food for thought for stakeholders interested in gender equality. As part of the Global Corporate Partnerships team, I experienced the concepts Women Deliver explored through a private sector lens – always asking what can companies do to address the issues girls and women face today?

My key takeaway is simple: don’t overthink it. Private sector stakeholders can make a big difference for women and girls by:

-Sharing their power and influence
-Listening to lived experiences

Save the Children, with support from one of our longest-standing partners, Procter & Gamble, convened a global group of young women and girl leaders to join our delegation. Seeing their leadership in action was electric. They brought fresh perspective and energy to discussions. Their presence demonstrated how direct insight from girls and women is crucial to shaping how we as an international community address a range of issues, from lack of access to education to early marriage.

Private sector stakeholders often market gender equality initiatives as “girls’ empowerment,” but our delegation showed that girls and women don’t need to be empowered. We already have power. What we need is to be given the space to flex our power, and that’s something companies with widespread consumer influence can easily share. Be an example for other companies by putting the things we already know are needed into action: promote more women to C-suite level positions, center high-visibility marketing campaigns around real women, and invest in female-led initiatives. These actions would allow women to flex their power and encourage them to show up in the workplace as their most powerful selves.

Companies interested in funding gender equality programs often demand hard data to prove the program’s worth. While metrics are a critical component to tracking program progress and success, girls’ and women’s lived experiences are just as meaningful as a metric. Listening to their stories can provide insight to the structures, systems, and power hierarchies that data can’t. Instead of starting with data to inform funding decisions, start with listening to girls’ and women’s lived experiences.

We’ve seen certain sectors of business, like beauty and wellness, take these actions and see meaningful brand growth and consumer engagement. It’s time for other sectors, like technology, finance, and medicine, to follow suit.

Whether you crave a sweet treat like “Barbie,” or have the appetite for meatier gender equality issues like those discussed at Women Deliver, what’s important to us at Save the Children is that you’re hungry. Hungry for action that helps create a more equitable world for girls and women. This is so important because when girls and women have support, education, and the right resources, they have the power not just to lift themselves, but to lift entire communities. If you’re a company interested in partnering to create a more equitable world for girls and women, contact [email protected].