While women influence 85% of consuming spending in the U.S., the sad fact is that the majority of companies who enjoy our business don’t have a female CEO. That lack of representation matters: It results in products that don’t work for women, from the seemingly trivial (smart watches without period trackers) to the staggeringly serious (deadly airbags).
But there is power in our pocketbooks, and Iris Kuo recognized that after hearing an interview with Sallie Krawcheck (founder of Ellevest, an investing platform for women). Krawcheck talked about how women told her they would make different decisions about where they work and where they shop if they knew how the company was performing.
Kuo, then a Wall Street Journal reporter, knew that information was out there, but there was no simple way to find it. So, like any seasoned journalist, she started digging into the numbers. What she found inspired her and co-founder Camille Ricketts to launch the LedBetter in 2016.
Tied up into a user-friendly bow called the Gender Equality Index, Kuo and Ricketts created an easy-to-read ranking system that aggregates and measures how the world’s top consumer brands are performing in terms of gender diversity and equal opportunity by looking at women in leadership roles at the companies. Based on the 2016 data, Chico’s ranks first of 237 companies with females representing 44% of the board and 73% of the executive leadership roles.
“Transparency is the first step to accountability and being able to hold organizations accountable for the progress they make,” Kuo says, “I think arming people with information is empowering. Even if it’s just one more data point or one more piece of information about the choices they make. It’s just about painting a fuller — and more contextualized — picture of how these companies are performing.”
Though the figures of the Index are currently from 2016, LedBetter has refreshed data coming out this summer and are planning more frequent updates moving forward. Kuo acknowledges that ranking female representation is only one piece of the equality puzzle. “Gender is just one part of what we talk about when discussing diversity. That’s our starting point which is great, but it’s definitely not the full picture.”
#GettingTo5050, a global movement rooted in actionable tools and resources, aims to catalyze the conversations that will inspire a more gender-balanced world. Because true equality doesn't just lift women—it lifts everyone. Learn more here. And click here to read Refinery29's profiles of eight women fighting for equality every day.