Breaking Barriers, Building Success: The Power of Gender Inclusivity in Business

March 7, 2024

Co-Authored by 
Shamha Naseer, Gender Strategy Development and Research Consultant at UNDP in Asia and the Pacific             
Tshering Choden, Regional Gender Specialist at UNDP in Asia and the Pacific             

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are core values necessary for success in the 21st century, and businesses worldwide are beginning to recognize this importance. One of the key drivers of this movement is the belief that gender equality is not only a fundamental human right but also a crucial driver of business success and economic growth. According to research, enterprises with equal employment opportunity policies and gender-inclusive cultures are over 60 percent more likely to have enhanced products and productivity. In addition, they are almost 60 percent more likely to experience an improved reputation, ease in attracting and retaining talent, and greater creativity and innovation.

Gender inclusivity goes beyond just diversity. It is about creating an environment where people of all genders feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives and talents. By embracing gender inclusivity, enterprises unlock a wealth of diverse ideas, experiences, and insights that fuel creativity, enhance decision-making processes, and ultimately drive their competitive advantage. Businesses that prioritize gender inclusivity and diversity tend to be more innovative, make better decisions, and are more profitable in the long term. 

Youth Participant During the Youth Co:Lab Summit

Youth Participant during the Youth Co:Lab Summit 2023

Youth Co:Lab 2023

Despite the mounting evidence on the importance of gender equality for businesses, many obstacles prevent this from becoming a reality. Discriminatory practices continue to stifle workplaces, holding back productivity and talent, which in turn hampers competitiveness and growth. Multiple layers of persistent discrimination and stigma further impact individuals' opportunities, contributions at work, and returns from work. For every dollar men earn, women earn 77 percent. At the current rate, it is estimated that it will take 257 years to close the global gender pay gap.  

Young entrepreneurs play a pivotal role in shaping the future of business by adapting to technological advancement, globalization, and changing social norms. With their fresh perspectives, innovative thinking, and a willingness to challenge the status quo, they are well-positioned to drive meaningful change and set new standards of inclusivity within their organizations. Their solutions can bridge the gender digital divide and accelerate equal opportunities for skilling in technology. By empowering these young leaders to prioritize and champion gender inclusivity, we can establish a new norm in the business world—one that celebrates diversity, breaks down barriers, and paves the way for a more equitable future and an agile workplace that meets the demands of the future of work. 

Youth Co:Lab, an initiative co-led by UNDP and Citi Foundation and the regional gender team, joined forces with young entrepreneurs to co-design the Gender Inclusivity Toolkit for Young Entrepreneurs on ‘Breaking Gender Barriers and Building Successful Businesses.’ It is a crucial step towards empowering the next generation of business leaders with the tools and knowledge they need to build enterprises that are not only financially successful but also inclusive and equitable for all. The Toolkit provides guidance and strategies to address gender biases and discrimination in the workplace. Research shows that for every 100 men promoted from entry-level to a manager, only 87 are women, and only 82 are women of color. 

One of the critical strategies provided by the Toolkit is to help young entrepreneurs identify and address gender biases prevalent in the workplace. According to one report, five of the barriers to women’s leadership were related to discrimination and unconscious gender bias. These biases can influence decision-making in recruitment, hiring, and performance evaluation, leading to a lack of diversity in the workplace. The Toolkit guides young entrepreneurs in being aware of their biases, educating themselves and their employees on gender diversity and inclusion, and developing merit-based recruitment and hiring strategies. 

Young Women Participants during the Youth Co:Lab Summit 2023

Youth Co:Lab 2023

When young entrepreneurs adopt inclusive practices, they set an example for other businesses to follow and break gender stereotypes. This can help create a ripple effect, with more companies adopting gender-inclusive practices and helping break down gender barriers across industries and sectors. Many are already moving the needle on gender equality through their businesses.  

The benefits of gender inclusivity in business go beyond the bottom line. Young entrepreneurs fostering gender-inclusive workplaces are architects of a fair and just society, unlocking opportunities for all genders to realize their full potential. By advancing gender equality and inclusivity in the workplace, we can promote economic growth, reduce inequality, and create a better world for all.