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Rebecca Fries

Bringing a Gender-Lens to Your Covid-19 Recovery Strategy

Bringing a Gender-Lens to Your Covid-19 Recovery Strategy

By Rebecca Fries, Managing Director and Co-founder of Value for Women

July 1st, 2020

Over the last three months, Value For Women has been having a lot of conversations with the financial institutions, investors, and SMEs we work with about how they can build gender into their COVID-19 response. Now we want to share some of these ideas with you, so that you can bring them to your own work.

We all know by now that gender is key to how the COVID-19 crisis is playing out globally, with women disproportionately affected by the closure of schools and childcare centres, as well as being more likely to work in the sectors most impacted by lockdowns, such as travel, restaurants, retail, and food production.

An April 2020 Cherie Blair Foundation survey of 580 women entrepreneurs in low and middle-income countries found that 93% of respondents had already been negatively impacted by COVID-19, and 44% had ceased operations at least temporarily. Chilean newspaper La Tercerawrote in June that the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis could set back progress on gender equality a decade or more,and similar concerns are being echoed around the world.

If we want to avoid these and other major setbacks on gender equality, women-led SMEs and gender-forward businesses must be at the heart of our recovery. Value for Women defines a “gender forward business” as one that: (i) intentionally seeks to rectify gender inequalities by providing products and services that close gender gaps or meet the needs of women and/or girls; (ii) supports gender diversity through internal policies and practices in the workforce; and/or (iii) strengthens inclusion and diversity across the value chain.

Gender-forward businesses can be built and led by people of all genders. But given inequities in funding and opportunities, paying specific attention to businesses led by women is important, too. Investing in and supporting women-led SMEs and gender-forward businesses in this moment will help to ensure that the solutions we develop work for everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or where they are in the world, and that we leverage the broadest possible pool of knowledge and wisdom in creating them. We also need to support businesses to become gender-forward, by bringing an inclusion lens to their operations and recovery plans, from to who they hire, to how they market, to how they design their products.

Here are five things you can do to create value for women entrepreneurs and gender-forward businesses.

  • If you’re investing in businesses to aid recovery, include women-led businesses. In economies where women lose their jobs first and get them back last, we can expect to see more women starting businesses over the coming months and years. Supporting those entrepreneurs will be an engine of both equality and economic growth. Value For Women can help you find investable women-led and gender-forward business in your country or sector of focus.
  • If you’re providing technical assistance to businesses that are innovating and pivoting during the COVID-19 crisis, support them to become more gender-forward with training on inclusivity and gender accountability mechanisms.
  • If you’re working on training or upskilling programs, think about what you can do to help women-led SMEs adapt to the pandemic. In the Cherie Blair Foundation survey, women entrepreneurs reported wanting help developing their online and digital marketing skills, business planning and resilience, and supporting their staff through the COVID-19 crisis.
  • If you offer financing to help businesses navigate COVID-19, make sure you’re serving the needs of your entire market, including women-led SMEs, who face additional challenges in financing and scaling their businesses.
  • If you’re helping companies to rebuild their operations post-COVID-19, support them to do so in ways that take into account their entire workforce, designing the physical and virtual workplace to help balance family responsibilities.

Whatever your role or strategy is, get an expert to evaluate it through a gender lens, help you set targets, and make sure you embed inclusion in your targets and vision from the start.

Gender isn’t just part of our responsibility to build back better. It’s also an opportunity: to tap into your full market potential, to increase your impact on the issues you care about (if you’re investing in climate solutions, for example, adding a gender lens can triple your impact), as well as to speed and strengthen the social and economic recovery from COVID-19 itself.

Value For Women has been working with our partners to help them better build gender into their own businesses and investment response, and we welcome you to join us.

Write to us at valueforwomen@v4w.org to share what you’re doing in your gender-informed COVID-19 response.

Rebecca Fries
Rebecca Fries