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“Entire societies develop for the better when women are enabled to be fully contributing community members. Strides in gender equality lead to strides against all forms of discrimination. This category covers programming and initiatives designed to improve the overall state of women, provide them with more opportunities, and defend their right to equal treatment alongside men.”


This is how Katerva introduces its Gender Equality category - and Gender equality and women's empowerment is of course also the UN 5th Sustainable Development Goal (you can check out the current status on how we are doing against it here). 

When you hear ‘Gender Equality’, what comes to your mind? For many it might be the gender pay gap - in most countries women who work earn around 25-40% less than their male counterparts, even in the US women earn about 80 cents for every dollar that a man earns. But while paying women less might even sound great for some cost-driven companies, taking a wider perspective the opposite seems to be the case: a report of a United Nations Development Programme states that, on average, gender inequality costs Sub-Saharan Africa $95 billion, equivalent of 6 per cent of GDP per year. Along similar lines the OECD Development Centre reported in June 2016 that “Gender-based discrimination in social institutions costs up to USD 12 trillion for the global economy.”

To continue with the impact on the economic aspect of the triple bottom line, according to a study conducted in collaboration between BCG and MassChallenge, there is a disparity of more than $1 million when it comes to investing in female versus male entrepreneurs. It seems that, even when the same idea is presented, men are 60% more likely than women to get funding. However, investors believing that their money might be in safer hands with male entrepreneurs are mistaken: while, according to PitchBook, between 2006 to 2016 companies with women CEOs have consistently received only 5% of venture dollars, companies with a female founder performed 63% better than those with all-male founding teams. According to a study by First Round Capital, a seed-stage venture firm focused on tech companies, women deliver higher returns. Furthermore, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor women entrepreneurs have a 5 percent greater likelihood to have innovative offerings compared to men.

It surely does not help that, according to Crunchbase, 92% of partners in the biggest VC firms in the US are men, who often relate less to the products designed by women. For example, beauty or childcare products are often developed from personal experience, and men may find it hard to see the potential or value in their offerings.

Here are a few current and past Katerva nominees who work to redress the gender imbalance on the economic front: 

  • US-based Ellevest invests in companies with women leaders, policies that advance women, those with higher standards of sustainability and ethical practices, and ones that provide community services.
  • Operating out of the UK, Ogunte helps women who help others.  To quote from their website, “Since 2007, we have worked with around 7000 women in social enterprises and their supporters. We enable Women in Social Enterprises to learn, lead and connect.”
  • Operating at a slightly different level, the Barter Bank enables members of the community, women in particular, to barter their skills for services. For example, a young mother can send her children to kindergarten, in return, she spends a couple of days a week helping other children with homework or participates in the Barter Bank’s training courses.The Barter Bank has managed to reach more than 3,500 families, 15,000 people, and different organizations in Colombia.

But is is not all about money. It seems that women entrepreneurs are more likely to drive social and environmental value creation. Here examples of our nominees that have a strong focus on environmental issues, either from our Gender Equality category or led by women: 

  • 2018 Winner of the Environment category, Afforest for Future, brainchild of Vesela Tanskovic.  The vision for her organisation is “to transform all deserts into food forests, to mitigate the effects of climate change and guarantee a prosperous future for all.”
  • 2017 finalist 1 Million Women - an App that helps women to plan on how to live a low-carbon life and the tools to transition to a net-zero carbon lifestyle.
  • 2017 Finalist, Frontier Markets, founded in 2011, provides rural families in India with access to quality clean energy solutions through their network of digitized rural entrepreneurs, with women at the center of the value chain.
  • 2018 Finalist Sustain Natural which has developed all natural female hygiene products, helping both the environment and female health.

And then there is of course Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old young woman from Sweden, who in August 2018 began a solo demonstration against global warming policy that has caught the world’s attention - by now tens of thousands of young people have already followed her and displayed their displeasure and concern with current climate policies. In addition to TED talks she has most recently spoken in Davos at this year’s World Economic Forum. 

Amongst our Gender Equality nominees there are also those whose innovations address aspects relating to the social leg of the triple bottom line. Be it combating human trafficking, as 2017 Finalist ASHRAY, child sex-trafficking as FaceSearch by Marinus Analytics, or resettlement of refugee girls in the USA as 2018 Nominees GirlForward does.  Interesting also, a self-defence product that looks like jewelry developed by inviA - according to UN findings, one in five women and girls aged 15-49 reports experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner within a 12-month period.

Most of all Katerva likes those sustainable disruptive innovations that address all 3 aspects of the triple bottom line equally well, such as our Grand Prize Winner 2017, Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE). To quote from their website, “18% of women and girls in Rwanda missed out on work or school last year because they could not afford to buy menstrual pads. Apart from the personal injustice stemming from menstrual taboos and the larger issues of health and dignity, that’s a potential GDP loss of $215 per woman every year in Rwanda – all because of a lack of access to menstrual pads.” To tackle this issue they are helping women in Rwanda set up social business, manufacturing and distributing affordable menstrual pads made of organic, renewable produce: banana fibre. 

And finally, we should always remember: it takes all of us to save us. As Sodexo, a French food services and facilities management company, found in an internal study, it is gender balance that brings the best results at all levels of the organisation.  Their study shows that teams with a male to female ratio between 40 and 60 percent produce results that are more sustained and predictable than those of unbalanced teams.

It is important that we realize the huge potential and benefits that lie in drawing on everyone’s contribution, and value everyone equally.  This is why Brazil-based Promundo, an organisation that works to promote gender equality and prevent violence by engaging men and boys in partnership with women and girls, was a very worthy finalist in 2017. By promoting men’s caregiving and active fatherhood they encourage equitable gender roles, thereby preventing violence against women and children, and contributing to positive maternal and child health outcomes.


Do you know any sustainable disruptive innovations that help redress the Gender imbalance?  Let us know!

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