Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

How a global tech company put gender equity at the heart of its business and why that paid off

a woman in India stands outside her shop in a story about gender equity

The global economy has greater potential to thrive when women participate and succeed. Image: Mastercard

Timothy Murphy
Chief Administrative Officer, Mastercard
Tanya Southerland
Senior Managing Counsel, Mastercard Strategic Growth
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  • The global economy suffers when women are left out but despite efforts, the Global Gender Gap Report found it will take 132 years to reach gender parity.
  • Business leaders across sectors should see this as a call to action, with the private sector can and must play a bigger role in advancing gender equity.
  • Experts at Mastercard outline three lessons and best practices that the organization has learned through its own gender equity journey.

The global economy suffers when women are left out. We know, and have known, this for a long time. And yet, despite genuine commitments and progress to increase gender equity, the latest Global Gender Gap Report from the World Economic Forum finds that it will still take 132 years to reach gender parity.

As business leaders, we should see numbers like this as a call to action. The private sector can and must play a bigger role advancing gender equity. At Mastercard, we see the opportunity to create change as an ongoing responsibility. Why? Value-wise, decency and inclusion matter to us. It is our cultural ethos.

Business-wise, we don’t like to leave money on the table. Mastercard is a global tech company which aims to facilitate inclusion in the economy and payment technology.

Promoting an inclusive economy in line with core values

After all, when more people have spending power, we generate stronger results for our stakeholders. Promoting an inclusive economy is not only aligned with our core company values, but also with our financial goals.

We are proud of our commitment to gender equity and gender-focused efforts and continue to act individually and collectively to create more opportunities for women everywhere.

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It’s an effort that gives us inspiration to continue the work toward our broader financial inclusion goal to bring one billion people and 50 million small businesses into the digital economy by 2025.

The work doesn’t end there, it’s ongoing. While governments move to enact legislation in support of equity, businesses like ours can serve as engines of sustainable inclusion by continuously engaging, employing and elevating women in our spheres of influence and impact.

One way that companies can act in support of this work is by sharing best practices for making progress. As Mastercard’s own commitment to gender equity evolves, here are three lessons that we have learned and strive to keep top-of-mind:

  • Go fast: Own what we can. We’re able to create local and timely change when we focus on what we can control. It’s about understanding the scope – and the limitations – of our expertise so that we can use our resources most effectively. It’s why at Mastercard we organize our gender balance efforts around three specific pillars: people, society and markets. Our people pillar focuses on gender pay parity, equal opportunity and safety in our workplace. Under society, we’ve scaled our Girls4Tech science, tech, engineering and mathematics education programme, bringing our expertise in areas like artificial intelligence (AI), data, and cyber into global classrooms that are shaping the next generation of women technologists. We’re also promoting more gender diverse leadership by advancing women’s representation on nonprofit and corporate boards through our Boards for Impact and 30% Club partnerships. Under markets, we work each day with small businesses and start-ups, so it’s in our interest to level that playing field through programmes like Start Path and Strivers.
  • Go far: There is power in our partnerships. We drive broader impact when we also work collectively with partners. As part of our gender equity efforts, we’ve worked with partners like the US International Development Finance Corporation and HDFC Bank in India, which helped unlock $100 million in first-time lending to women micro entrepreneurs and women-led small businesses while equipping them with the digital finance tools to create credit history. Through the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, we support projects with organizations like data.org and Women World Banking that explore using data and AI for applications like credit scoring to help break down barriers for women participating in and contributing to the economy.
  • Hold ourselves accountable. Achieving gender equity must be connected to clear objectives and outcomes with responsibility and accountability for doing the work. That’s why we’ve tied compensation to progress against our environmental, social and governance (ESG) priorities, including continuing to close the gender pay gap. We started this compensation model with top executives at the company and then expanded to all employees, recognizing the important role that each person plays in accomplishing our goals.

How gender equity initiatives can help women flourish

While we’re focused on driving change at scale, both within our company and in the markets we serve, we try to keep in mind that people and their stories are the heart of all our work.

Storeowner Renu, for example, took part in a business development and digital literacy programme – a partnership between Mastercard, the US Agency for International Development and Indian NGO Access Development Services – to bring her shop online.

A café owner named Kirthi used a grant from the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth to recover and rebuild her business after flooding, while another business owner, Ranjana, used her grant to establish a spice blend business that sells across India and Europe.

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These are just a few examples of how businesses can grow, communities can flourish and economies can expand when women are empowered to succeed. This is the kind of impact we can create and multiply when we put these lessons to work.

We both feel fortunate to work at a company that aligns its values, core business proposition and global network to creating a digital economy that is designed for and by women everywhere. We also feel fortunate not to be alone in our commitment to gender equity.

Our partners and peers in the private sector recognize that the global economy has even greater potential to thrive when women participate and succeed. We must continue to act with urgency while fortifying the framework for sustainable progress on gender equity.

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