WSI Mary Kay Gender Equality Challenge, SDG 5WSI

Design a solution to promote workplace equality and equal access to economic opportunity for women and girls.

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Pre-Covid, decades of data demonstrated the rise of women in the workforce. Even though the wage gap persisted, more women were joining the labor market every year. But pandemic job losses disproportionately impacted women and since 2020, the uphill climb to workforce equality has grown even steeper. A significant number of women were forced to drop out of the labor force entirely in order to care for children or other relatives during the pandemic – and now they're being left behind in the economic recovery.

 What do we lose with less gender balance in the workplace? It's more than a question of social justice. This is an issue with local, national and global repercussions. Gender inequality doesn't only affect individuals; it impacts entire economies. More and better jobs for women benefit individuals, families, communities, companies, and countries – because gender equality in the workforce stimulates overall economic growth.

Your challenge is to think of a way to promote workplace equality. The solution you propose might be an innovative idea to offer women and girls more opportunities for financial empowerment so that we can close the gender pay gap – or it might be an idea for bringing women who've been forced to drop out of the labor market back into the workforce. What would it take to bring back female workers? Reskilling programs? Child care solutions? Flextime? Think big and submit your most innovative idea!

Solutions meeting this challenge might involve things such as:

  • education and training
  • recruitment and job placement
  • mentoring and career development
  • special "returnship" programs akin to internships but for experienced workers
  • professional development opportunities, particularly in leadership training and negotiating skills
  • more flexible work arrangements, such as job sharing, flextime, and remote work
  • more family supports, such as childcare or eldercare programs, tutors to relieve employees of obligations to supervise their children's remote learning, or workplace-based communal services
  • access to entrepreneurship education and startup funding so those who've lost employment can make their own jobs

Mary Kay

One of the original glass ceiling breakers, Mary Kay Ash founded her beauty company more than 55 years ago with three goals: develop rewarding opportunities for women, offer irresistible products, and make the world a better place. That dream has blossomed into a multibillion-dollar company with millions of independent sales force members in nearly 40 countries. Mary Kay is dedicated to investing in the science behind beauty and manufacturing cutting-edge skin care, color cosmetics, nutritional supplements and fragrances. Mary Kay is committed to empowering women and their families by partnering with organizations from around the world, focusing on supporting cancer research, protecting survivors from domestic abuse, beautifying our communities, and encouraging children to follow their dreams. Mary Kay Ash’s original vision continues to shine—one lipstick at a time. Learn more at

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“Global youth are providing solutions to the world’s most complex problems; this is why Mary Kay remains steadfast in our commitment to nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs. Through the support of NFTE programs, such as the World Series of Innovation, youth from diverse backgrounds around the world are given a platform to drive change. As a decades-long champion for women’s empowerment, we are excited to see how the youth will tackle improving equality for women in a post-pandemic world.”

Deborah Gibbins / Chief Operating Officer, Mary Kay Inc.

I want to see gender equality now!

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