Why I’m Prioritizing Women in my Workplace

Sep 26, 2018



This year I decided to do two little experiments with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Three years ago, the United Nations defined the SDGs as the big, audacious problems of our time and asked businesses, nonprofits, individuals, and governments to help solve these problems by 2030.

My first experiment was to memorize all 17 of the SDGs—I succeeded. At first. Took me about a month to memorize them. And it took about two months to forget many of them. I’m currently recommitting them to memory!

And the second experiment was to use the SDGs as a framework to guide our social impact here at Oliver Russell.

The goal I chose was Sustainable Development Goal 5, Gender Equality. This goal strives to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. I thought it would be a powerful way to focus our attention and our resources.

Since we’re smack-dab in the middle of the UN Global Goals Week, I thought I’d use this occasion to update you on our progress with Gender Equality. So how’s it look? You tell me.

In February, we sent two of our staff, Holly Conti and Caitlin Massingill, to the World-Changing Women’s Summit, a women’s leadership conference held by Conscious Company Media at 1440 Multiversity.

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Throughout this year we have given micro business loans to women entrepreneurs in Malawi every time that we get a new client. So far that’s amounted to $360 through our partnership with B1G1, a fantastic online giving platform for small businesses that’s also led by a woman social entrepreneur.

In response to a news event, we launched a super-fast cause campaign, Unhinged, in support of paid parental leave—for both moms and dads.

We donated $500 to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which is part of Everytown USA (the parent nonprofit). This was for their local Wear Orange for Gun Safety event in June. 

We’ve donated logo, design, and marketing services to the Idaho Women 100, a joint project between Idaho Women in Leadership and the Idaho State Historical Society that celebrates the upcoming (2020) celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote.

We’ve hired a wonderful woman, Masouma Rezayi, as an accounting intern. Masouma, who’s a refugee from Afghanistan, has been with us for nearly six months and is doing a wonderful job.

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We've offered our conference room free of charge for meetings (equivalent rental rate of $350) of the Boise Women Who Get Shit Done. They’ve met seven times in our office and always seem to have a lot of fun—their laughter echoes throughout the building.

We’ve helped two female entrepreneurs launch their new businesses. Chris Rudd will soon be launching Our Planet Soap Company, which makes amazing handcrafted soap that benefits endangered species. We’ll be taking an equity stake in her company. Her website will be launching shortly; for now you can follow along with her on Facebook.

We also helped brand Dream Farm Flowers for Sarah Lunstrum. (Full disclosure: Sarah is my wife.) Sarah grows organic flowers and sells them in the Boise area through subscription on her website. She also donates bouquets to help brighten lives at nonprofit groups such as The Ronald McDonald House, Create Common Good, and the Interfaith Sanctuary homeless shelter.

We donated $1,000 and provided pro-bono design and marketing services to a female filmmaker, Jennifer Tennican. Jen has made a fantastic documentary, called Hearts of Glass, about Vertical Harvest, a social enterprise in Jackson, Wyoming, that employs people with different physical and intellectual abilities in a super-rad, state-of-the-art greenhouse.

We contributed $1,000 to a female social entrepreneur, Greta Gladney, working on food security and economic development for women and underserved communities in New Orleans.

Lastly, we provided a $1,000 seed grant to Amber Smith, a rancher who organized a Montana Circle of the Women in Ranching, a gathering to connect and inspire women working on the land. This was successfully hosted in collaboration with the nonprofit Western Landowners Alliance, and we’re told that it will be the subject of an upcoming story in the New York Times

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So how’s that look so far? I’d have to say it’s not bad, not bad—still so much work to be done, but fairly gratifying to see a recap based on using the UN SDGs as a framework for creating social impact around gender equality. I’d say the experiment is working.

I chose to work on this specific SDG because, yes, I believe in gender equality and women’s empowerment. But there’s another reason for this decision, one I actually think is more compelling: It’s my strong belief that Gender Equality is perhaps the most powerful lever among all 17 SDGs, and that if we can attain gender equality around the world, we have the key to unlock achieving the rest of the goals as well, from poverty to hunger to climate change. Let’s make it happen.