working women

Would You Buy a “Gender Equality” Label?

Recently, L’Oreal USA became the first American company to achieve an EDGE (Economic Dividends for Gender Equality) Foundation certification.

Never heard of the EDGE Foundation?  Founded in 2009 and based in Geneva, EDGE is a non-profit that’s established a certification process and standard for companies that wish to demonstrate their commitment to gender equality.  There are only 6 companies (technically, all regional subsidiaries) who have achieved an EDGE certification: Deloitte Switzerland; IKEA Switzerland; CEPD Poland; Compartamos Banco Mexico; Lombard Odier Switzerland and L’Oreal USA.

EDGE says it evaluates companies across 5 different areas:

  1. Equal pay
  2. Recruitment and promotion
  3. Leadership development, training and mentorship
  4. Flexible working
  5. Company culture

There are 3 possible levels of an EDGE certification, defined as follows:

  • Level 1: An organization, service or product meets standards [for gender equality] it sets for itself
  • Level 2: Same as above except the standards are set by peers (e.g. a trade association)
  • Level 3 (“Certification”): An independent assessment shows that the organization, product or service meets standards that have been established by impartial experts, often in consultation with stakeholders. A certificate is issued to prove that the standard has been met

Most commentary about EDGE certification has been skeptical.  And indeed, its hard to know what the certification means because there appears to be little in the way of either in-depth qualitative and quantitative definition of the criteria involved, nor disclosure requirements by the companies that are certified.

Still, as an effort to try to highlight companies’ treatment of women and gender balance and identify the “good guys”, Fairygodboss is sympathetic to EDGE and hopes it eventually becomes a more meaningful certification.  EDGE has been compared to the LEED building certification for energy efficiency and the Fair Trade certification for consumer products.  In terms of parallels, these two certifications also took some time to get off the ground, became better defined and improved adoption after a lot of initial critique and debate.

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