From Policies to Practices: Company Behaviors and our Women's Rights Pillar
Tuesday, March 26, 2024
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March 2024
From Policies to Practices: Company Behaviors and our Women's Rights Pillar
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Sustainability Research Lead Sophie Griffith answers frequently asked questions about our Women’s Rights Pillar. 

by Sophie Griffith

We often take Women’s History Month as an opportunity to celebrate some of the great women in history – big names like Marie Curie as well as lesser-known ones like Marsha P. Johnson. However, while celebrating the achievements of these women, we can often miss the opportunity to examine the barriers that made those achievements so challenging – and how many of them remain today. 

That’s why Women’s History Month is an opportunity to challenge our assumptions about the past and make sure we’re moving towards a future that looks different. Ensuring that forward momentum is precisely what Ethic’s Women’s Rights pillar is designed to do. While well-known issues such as the gender pay gap and the dearth of women in management positions are included in our considerations, we also go beyond the traditional barriers to women’s success. We consider issues like data privacy, which can have uniquely important implications for pregnant people, and online violence, which disproportionately targets women. In this FAQ, we look at some of the ways Ethic’s Women’s Rights Pillar strives to contribute to ensuring an equitable future for women. 

FAQ #1 How does Ethic define women’s rights?

Ethic’s Women’s Rights Pillar defines women’s rights as those that “seek to protect women's autonomy and remove barriers to women's participation in all aspects of society.” These rights apply to all women regardless of race, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex assigned at birth, or any other status.

This definition was chosen carefully. We were not satisfied with theoretical rights, things that women should have access to. It is not enough to codify the rights of women in law and policy if there are numerous social, economic, and political factors that can prevent women from exercising these rights. For example, the legal right to own property loses meaning if women are disproportionately unable to afford property. That’s why we chose to homne in on autonomy and participation in our definition – how do real women experience the real world? And how do company behaviors affect that experience? 

FAQ #2 How can companies impact women’s rights?

Our Women’s Rights pillar considers three avenues of impact: 

  • Impacts on women employees
  • Impacts on women users of products and services
  • In the years leading up to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, women were more likely to receive subprime mortgages than men despite having similar credit scores and credit usage. Additionally, students at for-profit universities are disproportionately female, and many are single mothers. People, and especially women, who attend these institutions generally have worse economic outcomes after graduation than graduates of non-profit institutions.
  • Impacts of systemic issues that disproportionately impact women
  • Women are disproportionately harmed by the short-term and long-term effects of climate change. For example, climate change exacerbates extreme weather conditions like droughts and floods. This can impact female farmers, who make up the majority of the agricultural workforce in Africa and elsewhere. Extreme weather can also undermine hygiene and sanitation, affecting women's health, economic, and educational outcomes.
  • As a result, if a company’s behavior contributes to climate change, they are considered within the scope of this pillar. 

FAQ #3 How is intersectionality considered in the pillar?

There is no singular female experience. Race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sexuality are just some examples of overlapping identities that can impact barriers to women’s autonomy. For example, the pay gap is wider for Black women than white women in the United States, which is why we believe companies should take comprehensive measures to address racial as well as gender inequality in the workplace.

Intersectionality is core to our pillar’s approach. In constructing this pillar, we consulted traditional women’s rights frameworks but also An Affirmation of Feminist Principles, which emphasizes the universality of human rights and acknowledges the diversity of issues that impact all women as well as many trans and nonbinary people. At the same time, we acknowledge that some issues are unique to certain communities of women, which is why we offer overlapping but distinct pillars like Racial Justice, LGBTQ+ Justice, and Poverty.

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Ethic Inc. is a Registered Investment Adviser located in New York, NY. Registration of an investment adviser does not imply any level of skill or training. Information pertaining to Ethic Inc’s registration or to obtain a copy of Ethic Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing Ethic Inc.’s business operations, services and fees is available on the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Information website – or from Ethic Inc. upon written request at Information provided herein is for informational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Any subsequent, direct communication by Ethic Inc. with a prospective client shall be conducted by a representative of Ethic Inc. that is either registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration in the state where a prospective client resides. Information contained herein may be carefully compiled from third-party sources that Ethic Inc. believes to be reliable, but Ethic Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy of any third-party information.

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Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Sophie comes to Ethic after a 10-year career in education with a focus on adult math education. Through her experiences as a teacher, she became passionate about education policy and the power of research to enact change. Sophie has an MS in Quantitative Methods for the Social Sciences from the CUNY Graduate Center, where she developed a particular interest in measurement issues in the social sciences. She also holds a BA in Writing and Psychology from Columbia University.

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