You like your strawberries certified organic and you want your fridge to have an Energy Star so it protects the environment. But would you be more likely to buy products from brands that are certified gender equal?
EDGE, which stands for Economic Dividends for Gender Equality, is a new stamp of approval showing that a company is actively committed to gender equality. Created in Switzerland by Nicole Schwab and Aniela Unguresan, along with a team of data scientists and diversity specialists, it was conceived to be similar to the LEED Certification for energy efficiency. It launched at the World Economic Forum in 2011, but focused first on local expansion: The Swiss offices of Ikea and Deloitte were among the first to sign on.
Now EDGE is going global. Some 60 companies in 29 countries are now certified and today, L’Oreal USA, the largest subsidiary of the L'Oreal Group, announces that it is the first such organization in the United States to receive the EDGE seal.
Angela Guy, L’Oreal USA's senior vice president of diversity and inclusion, says the certification process took six months, involving a deep dive into the company’s gender data across it’s 10,000 strong workforce and a qualitative review of its gender policies. About 3,000 employees were surveyed about recruitment, promotion, mentorship, leadership training, flexible work, company culture, and fairness of pay. L’Oreal USA became EDGE certified after a third-party auditor verified the findings.
According to Guy, the certification serves as validation for what L’Oreal is doing right, but it also prompts her team to think about what still needs to be done to push toward gender equality. For instance, she says that the company’s gender breakdown skews female since 65% of employees are women and only 35% are men. "We’re happy to be such a welcoming workplace for women, but we’re working to bring more men on board to balance the numbers," she explains.
Megan Beyer, an EDGE board member, tells me she’s excited that one day people will seek out EDGE-certified employers or purchase EDGE-certified products in an effort to support gender equality. Many other American companies are currently undergoing certification. "SAP just signed on," Beyer says. "Other software companies and government contractors are in the pipeline as well."
The EDGE program has already received the approval of several American politicians working on gender equality at the policy level. Beyers notes that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has lent her support to EDGE and believes it is part of a broader strategy to boost U.S. competitiveness by allowing women to be more productive workforce participants.