Women are responsible for 90% of the demand for products in the jewelery industry and are present throughout the entire value chain. However, women’s roles and opportunities in the jewelry supply chain are conditioned by gender inequalities and discrimination.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed and in some cases reversed progress towards gender equality across all sectors. Many of the hardest hit industries, including retail, are dominated by women. Jewelry retail in particular is one of the hardest hit consumer goods categories, with sales dropping to four-fifths in some areas in the early stages of the pandemic, and the impacts have rippled throughout the industry and its supply chain, compounding many of the structural inequalities and challenges women already face.
In 2020, UN Women launched an unprecedented campaign: “Generation Equality: Realizing women’s rights for an equal future“, marking the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and bringing together several generations of women’s rights activists. This culminated in July in Paris, where businesses, governments and civil society committed to an ambitious agenda global acceleration plan achieve gender equality by 2030. This momentum and the “she-surrender“The global pandemic has heightened the urgency for companies to advance gender equality. Forty companies have made individual and collaborative commitments to advance gender equality in their value chains.
Companies can play a vital role in changing attitudes, establishing responsible practices throughout the supply chain and creating inclusive and safe working environments for all.
As part of Generation Equality, BSR, in partnership with the RJC, engaged with a wide range of industry stakeholders around the world through workshops, regional roundtables and surveys. The resulting report, “Gender Equality Report: Now is the time to accelerate SDG 5, achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls“, sheds light on the current state of corporate efforts to advance gender equality in the jewelry industry. The report features four main insights:
1. Enabling small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to progress towards gender equality is a key opportunity for the entire industry
Gender equality efforts begin with high-level leadership commitments and transformational business policies that can set the pace for integrating gender equality into value chains and corporate teams . However, one of the biggest obstacles to achieving these commitments and policies in the industry is the size of the organization. SMEs often lack the internal capacity, expertise or resources to develop formal policies, and gender equality is not as clear a priority as in larger organizations which have more of a responsibility to act and engage in external initiatives.
As many as 35% of RJC members are SMEs that have not developed external commitments or vision statements, and 21% of RJC members said they have limited formal policies. However, many SMEs have made internal commitments, adopted informal policies, or promoted inclusivity through other means, such as corporate charters.
2. Social norms on gender and structural factors in companies impact access to talent
In the jewelry industry, it is difficult to access and hire diverse talent, especially women. This problem is even more acute in certain regions, in the mining industry and for roles in logistics or STEM functions. However, some companies have begun to address these barriers to gender diversity. So while many companies are still focused on “hiring the best person for the job,” which can hamper efforts to increase gender diversity, the survey found that 24% of member companies RJC are reviewing their positions and requirements to eliminate potential biases.
Additionally, many other opportunities exist to implement hiring, development and retention plans. Practices, such as unconscious bias trainings for hiring teams, setting hiring and promotion goals, and creating targeted development and learning opportunities for underrepresented groups, are still limited among members, meaning there is significant room for improvement.
3. Globally, the conversation about diversity in the industry is centered on gender equality
However, in some regions, the approach is shifting towards broader dimensions of diversity and inclusion, such as the focus on racial justice and ethnic diversity in North America and disability and age in Europe. Because dimensions of identity can create layers of discrimination for an individual, not all women have experienced the same level of progress towards gender equality in recent years. Companies should consider taking an intersectional approach to gender equality and understanding how different dimensions of identity intersect.
However, a common challenge for many companies in the industry is knowing where or how to start, as these issues are very culturally sensitive and the regional context is key to understanding the challenges and opportunities.
4. Organizations have the opportunity to amplify their impact and drive industry change by looking across their entire value chain
Companies can foster greater diversity in their value chains by taking a range of steps, including actively sourcing from entities led and/or owned by women or other underrepresented groups, focusing on the welfare of workers throughout their supply chains and using their marketing practices to challenge stereotypes. However, value chain initiatives in the industry are still largely limited. Only 2% of companies surveyed have committed to sourcing from women-owned or minority-owned businesses. Lack of market access for small or women-owned businesses continues to be a significant barrier to value chain diversity.
Where to go from here?
Our dialogues and other engagements make it clear that industry-wide collaboration will be key to addressing systemic challenges to achieving gender equality. BSR and the RJC are committed to supporting and stimulating this industry-wide collaboration and deepening this dialogue with industry stakeholders to promote progress within individual organizations as well as across the whole industry.