Gender capitalism, the concept of evaluating socioeconomic situations in relation to how they may impact gender groups, is increasingly being taken into account by investors, economists, and policymakers. In November 2020, for example, the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) announced the launch of seven projects that would take into consideration gender as it applies to competitive business practices and antitrust issues; the goal is to examine how much of a role gender plays in terms of collusion within mergers, acquisitions, and business expansion practices.
Just a few days after the OECD made the aforementioned announcement, the United States Federal Trade Commission filed an antitrust lawsuit against social networking giant Facebook, the parent company of Instagram and WhatsApp. The lawsuit, which was supported by Attorney General offices in 48 states, claims that Facebook has conducted anti-competitive practices with its billionaire WhatsApp and Instagram acquisitions. While we can certainly expect legal fireworks in a case of this magnitude, it remains to be seen whether the gender lens will be applied.
Gender inequality is an issue that society has been contending with throughout modern history. It would not be surprising to learn that the Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions were planned and executed without gender lens analysis; on the surface, we could argue that Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and board member of Women for Women International, considered gender issues when clearing these M&A deals, but we don’t know for sure. Bringing up Instagram demographics, which tilt towards a female majority, would not be an adequate example of real gender lens analysis.
Seeing that we are still in the early stages of true gender capitalism, the current focus is on increasing female participation in the global economy. As we can see in this content on Intentional Endowments Network, there is an intrinsic value in conducting gender lens analysis prior to making investing decisions. A college that seeks to reinvigorate its funding through donations would definitely benefit from gender lens evaluations; the idea is to make donors aware that they are shaping their educational and research activities in ways that can benefit women.
Those in charge of making decisions should know that they will face some criticism with regard to gender lens projections. There are segments of society who believe that this practice is misnamed because it only centers on female empowerment. This is an incorrect assumption because the gender lens looks at inequalities; it just so happens that women have historically been affected more than men in this regard, but there may be some situations in which the deck is stacked against men.
There will be a day when the gender lens will no longer be needed. When that day comes, we will look at gender capitalism as a relic of the past. This may sound like a day in Utopia, but we certainly have the tools to reach that goal. Viewing things through the gender lens before making decisions will make us aware of existing inequalities and how we can prevent them. In a few decades, this thoughtful practice will become a standard