We had the great pleasure to meet Carmen in Washington D.C. in the summer of 2016, and to learn about IFC’s inspiring work around building and sharing the Business Case for employers to adopt “gender smart” solutions in their strategic planning, including initiatives for employer-supported childcare.

If you haven't yet come across the IFC, it is the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector in developing countries. IFC’s Gender Secretariat supports the organization in applying a gender lens to IFC’s investment and advisory services, working with private sector companies and partners in boosting women’s employment opportunities, including the number of women in leadership roles. In our conversation, we look at the general issues impacting women’s employment, and also zoom in on the topic of childcare specifically.

A Business Case for Gender Equality

IFC’s commitment to advancing gender equality is anchored in a strong business case and in client demand for gender-smart solutions, which has significantly grown over the past years. In response, IFC is working with clients to reduce the gap between men and women as entrepreneurs, employees, corporate leaders, suppliers, consumers, and community stakeholders.

Companies that have changed their recruitment policies, have put in place measures to prevent sexual harassment or fund childcare are seeing tangible benefits on the recruitment, retention and productivity of their employees; the quality of their output; on market reach; on improved decision-making; as well as more innovative products and services.

The #SheWorks partnership

What better way to empower employers than through the force of a learning network. Thirteen leading private sector companies from around the world joined the IFC-led SheWorks partnership, each SheWorks member having signed-up to a minimum of three gender smart commitments to support their female employees while realizing business benefits. The commitments included action on women in leadership; the retention of female employees via different policies such as childcare; flexible working; as well as ensuring that anti-sexual harassment mechanism are effective. You can read the full 2017 SheWorks Knowledge Report here.

A Focus on Employer-supported Childcare

With a presence in more than 100 countries, IFC recognizes that companies face different policies and regulations in different markets and that many companies go over and above regulatory requirements to support their employees. What emerged from the many years of research is that the availability and quality of employer-supported childcare can be an enabler to parents’ labour force participation. IFC did a deep-dive on the topic of employer-supported childcare, and released the Tackling Childcare report in September 2017, which examines the different types and benefits of childcare services employers can consider and offer to employees. The report, like other IFC Gender Secretariat publications is full of useful good practice examples and business case data collected in 10 case study companies in diverse industries and regions. The Tackling Childcare report dispels many misconceptions about the potential costs and challenges for employers to consider offering childcare-support to their employees.

You can read more about the work of the IFC on gender issues here.