Successful companies not only meet their customers’ needs, they invest in innovation and new markets, build communities, and ensure they have a diverse staff. In today’s marketplace, companies play a critical role as corporate citizens and can be trusted partners with the public sector. A focus on gender equality, diversity, and women’s leadership is not just a philanthropic goal, it is central to business success and must be integrated into business operations.

Companies that are committed to equality and sustainability — both internally and externally — can expand market share, and burnish their reputation as good citizens, as consumers look for products reflecting their values. Globally, almost two-thirds of consumers prefer to buy from companies that reflect their personal values and beliefs.

Diverse teams increase profitability, innovation, and the ability to identify new markets and opportunities. A McKinsey and Co study found that companies in the top 25 percent for gender diverse executive teams were over 20 percent more likely to exceed average profitability. Diverse teams help companies benefit from different viewpoints and avoid missteps, such as Gucci’s launch of a sweater during Black History Month that reinforced racial stereotypes and Apple’s programming of Siri to respond inappropriately to user questions about sexual harassment. 

There are other concrete steps that companies can make to achieve meaningful success through their equity strategies.  Companies should buy more goods and services from women-led and other diverse businesses. Companies should identify barriers in their own systems, such as cumbersome and lengthy application processes, that prevent diversity in supply chains. For example, Walmart leverages its size and scale to source more from women-owned businesses, but this type of supply chain diversification doesn’t have to be limited to large organizations.

Companies can also partner with the public sector to develop strong enabling and legal environments critical to women’s success, including skill development and laws that make it easier for women to access quality education, child care, and health care. Legal frameworks that ensure non-discrimination, and protect against sexual harassment, assault and violence are good for business as they help attract and retain talent.

Enhancing enterprise-wide equality and diversity are not only the right thing for organizations to prioritize, but this effort is foundational to business success.