Five Minutes With Amy Cross, Founder of Gender Fair
by Rebecca Heaton
Amy is a journalist, an entrepreneur, and a long-time cultural worker with a powerful ability to see the next big trend. She founded Gender Fair in 2016 to showcase companies that serve women well and promote gender equality through market-based solutions. Through one purchase at a time, Amy believes you can make the world fairer — and it’s about time we started.
What requirements does a company have to meet to be gender fair?
The company has to excel in four major areas, which we call “LEAP”: Leadership, employee policies, advertising and philanthropy. Our metrics look at a company internally as well as externally. We measure 13 different data points in those areas and it’s a pretty accurate snapshot of how a company serves women. In all of those areas, a company has to do better than the benchmark averages on things like board membership and women managers. We also look at work/life integration policies, that help anyone, male or female. This includes flex work, telecommuting and employee benefits. We check to see if their advertising breaks any stereotypes such as a man reading to his children or a woman hiking alone. We also ask that the company does some philanthropy around women and girls.
Why did you choose to adopt a market-based strategy in obtaining equality?
We’ve been talking about the problems for a long time. I’ve been an ethical shopper for decades and I buy Fair Trade, but I wondered why there wasn’t something like that for me. It made me feel like I don’t matter. I don’t matter? It feels terrible to not matter. The thing is, no one gives you power. You either have it, or you take it. And women have power! We have huge economic power. If we want to solve these problems I’ve been talking about my whole life, why not use our power? Using our market power might change our lives. And we know it works, there are already many great examples of what women consumers have done. There’s no reason why women can’t do this to push the needle forward. We’ve stagnated on women’s leadership in corporate America. We have got to keep our eye on the ball.
“I’ve been an ethical shopper for decades and I buy Fair Trade, but I wondered why there wasn’t something like that for me. It made me feel like I don’t matter.”
What has surprised you most about the leadership practices of the companies you have analyzed?
I’m just astonished that women haven’t made more progress! My graduating year was the year women were half of all BA’s, so we’re coming in the pipeline, but we’re not coming out the pipeline. Clearly something is wrong and the machine is broken. What astonishes me is that companies have all these different employee research groups and leadership training. Women are having to spend all this time going to conferences and they’re losing time for their actual job. I say the people not sharing leadership should have to do all the work. It really doesn’t seem fair that people have to “fix” themselves to lead or be given an equal shot.
To what extent are companies paying attention to equality and trying to do better?
We see a lot of companies increase parental leave and publish it. That’s one easy way to show they care about women. But it’s not really showing that they’re trying to create an equal playing field. More important is when they have things like parental leave and encourage men to take it. Companies that are really serious are making goals and tracking them. I believe Procter & Gamble says they want to be gender balance in the next few years — that’s pretty amazing! Advertising is also something that’s improving because it’s something that’s so visible and there’s so much attention to it. I even see companies adding more philanthropy focused on women’s economic power. Companies are realizing that being gender fair is a business imperative. If 75-80% of consumers are women, you better be pleasing women. The days of treating women not very respectfully and expecting their money are over. We’re finally flexing our market power.
“If 75-80% of consumers are women, you better be pleasing women. The days of treating women not very respectfully and expecting their money are over. We’re finally flexing our market power.”
What is the future of shopping gender fair?
We are hoping in the next few years we can get labels on products. I want there to be orange Gender Fair labels at stores across America. We’re in talks with retailers about getting labels online too in places like Amazon. Right now, people can find it on the app, but it can be confusing and we want to make it easy. It should be easy for women to make sure that every dollar we spend, whether it be a consumer dollar or an investment dollar, goes to a company that serves women well. If you care about equality and put any money into a company that doesn’t treat women well, you’re not helping your cause. Remember that your dollar gives you a voice, and every time you spend this dollar, you get a vote. And you can vote every day with your dollar for equality. So I encourage everyone to vote often.