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Corporate Responsibility in Action

Equality Means Business - The Business Case for Women's Empowerment

Created: 17 Dec 2013
John McGoun's picture
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Last week the world celebrated International Human Rights Day. In honor of this we’re featuring a series on how Symantec promotes the rights of all people, through various diversity efforts and initiatives. Our first post announced Symantec’s perfect score of 100 in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) for the sixth consecutive year. Today we discuss Symantec’s pledge to the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP) and what this means for women’s rights at Symantec and across the world.

Research shows that:

  • Organizations with the most gender diversity on their Boards of Directors financially outperform companies with the least;
  • Companies with the most women board directors outperformed those with the least on return on sales by 16 percent and return on invested capital by 26 percent; and
  • An employment rate for women equivalent to that of men would boost economic growth by five percent in the US, and by more in developing countries.

Additionally, a diverse workforce brings many other benefits to a business such as:

  • Reduced costs (e.g., absenteeism and turnover)
  • Attracting top talent as an employer of choice
  • Increased productivity, profitability, and engagement
  • Tapping new markets and building customer loyalty

Due to the incredible efforts of businesses, the public sector, NGOs, universities and more, women’s equality has come incredibly far, and the business case is only getting stronger. Last year, we saw the appointment of Marissa Mayer as the new Yahoo! CEO and this week General Motors named the first female Chief Executive for a US car maker.

HOWEVER….in nearly all parts of the world, women still face discrimination in most areas compared to men:

  • There are 774 million illiterate people in the world today; two-thirds are female;
  • Women currently hold just 4.5 percent of Fortune 1000 CEO positions; and just 6.1% of FTSE 100 executive positions;
  • Women make up the majority of the world's farmers in rural areas, but only 1% worldwide own land; and
  • In the film industry, recent studies show that 70 percent of the speaking roles in 2012's 100 highest-grossing movies belonged to men; of the top 250 movies only 9% of directors are female.

The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP)

At Symantec we are proud to be a founding signatory of the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP)— a partnership initiative of UN Women and UN Global Compact (UNGC) that provides a set of considerations to help the private sector focus on key elements integral to promoting gender equality in the workplace, marketplace and community. In the international community and global business world, these are the recognized principles and standards for women’s equality.

We adhere to these principles as our guiding framework to attract and develop a diverse employee base. Through this and other public-private relationships, Symantec demonstrates its unwavering commitment to increase diversity in the workforce. And we are not alone - in September this year, the total number of CEOs endorsing the WEPs totaled more than 600, covering 40 countries and a range of sectors.

In 2012 our CEO Steve Bennett endorsed the WEP, and since this time we’ve made tremendous strides towards implementing the WEPs and promoting equality for women.

For example, our WEP Key Stakeholder Committee—a cross-functional team working to integrate the WEP into our business functions—took important steps in Fiscal Year 2013 to formally recognize professional development and training exercises offered through the 14 Symantec Women’s Action Network (SWAN) chapters across the globe. Employees participating in SWAN events and trainings are now able to receive Learning Excellence Credits (LECs) for their time—a change that will further support SWAN’s mission to advance women’s careers at Symantec. Additionally:

  • Symantec joined the WEP Leadership Group to help drive development and bring awareness not only to the WEPs, but the issue of women’s empowerment;
  • At the end of FY13, women in leadership at Symantec was up from 25 percent to 27 percent, matching the overall percentage of employees who are women;
  • We’ve increased our support of nonprofit partners that help advance underserved populations, such as the Anita Borg Institute, TechBridge, National Center for Women & Information Technology and the San Francisco Gender Equality Challenge;
  • A Symantec employee served on WEP Advisory Committee and Symantec co-sponsored International Women’s Day which is a WEP initiative;
  • We purchased a three-part “Women in Leadership” e-learning series, available to all employees; and
  • Since its inception in 2011,  Symantec has sponsored the TechWomen program (an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA)), supporting professional mentorship and exchange programs for women in IT from the Middle East and North Africa.

“Symantec has a longstanding commitment to advancing and empowering women in the workplace and we fully endorse the Women’s Empowerment Principles. The Principles provide us with a framework to ensure that Symantec remains a place where innovative ideas can flourish, and where both women and men can have productive and satisfying careers.” – Symantec CEO Steve Bennett (2012)

We look forward to continuing our efforts and fostering the talent of our incredible female workforce at Symantec; and to ensuring women’s equality continues to improve in the workplace and in all realms of life.  

John McGoun is Symantec's Senior Director of Global Operations. He is also a member of Symantec's Women's Empowerment Principles Committee.