Speaking to us on International Women’s Day, Yael Nevo told us about the gender consultancy she co-founded and why gender equality is both vitally important and good for business.
Could you introduce us to you and your company?
My name is Yael Nevo. I am a gender consultant and the co-founder and co-director of Genderscope – a gender consultancy that focuses on the private sector. I founded Genderscope with human rights lawyer Sinem Hun due to our shared, comprehensive approach to gender in the workplace. In our consultations, we address the socio-cultural, legal and policy aspects of businesses. We then provide bespoke training and consultancy to support our clients’ understanding of the gender dimension within their organisational culture.
How did your background put you in a position to decide on founding a gender consultancy startup?
I’ve been engaged in gender-related work and study for over 16 years. I hold a BA in Art History and Philosophy and an MA in Critical Social Theory from Israeli universities, as well as an MSc in Gender and Human Rights from the London School of Economics (LSE). I worked, among other places, as a Women's Rights Coordinator at Amnesty International (Israel), a Project Assistant at the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights (US), and more recently as a Centre Coordinator at the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security (UK).
My business partner is a human rights lawyer specialising in women and LGBTI+ rights. She holds an MA degree from the College of Europe and an MSc degree from the LSE. She is the founder of the first human rights-based legal and strategic consultancy of Turkey, and has collaborated with the UK Embassy in Turkey, CIVICUS World Alliance, Privacy International, ILGA-Europe and Transgender Europe (TGEU)
How did the idea behind Genderscope come about?
Sinem and I met seven years ago during our MSc in Human Rights studies at LSE. After finishing our studies, we each went our separate ways and kept in touch through social media. I had been working in a few organisations since and was beginning to notice a lack of knowledge and various misconceptions, and therefore a need for a basic foundational understanding of what is gender and how it operates in the world.
This was most apparent to me within organisational culture, where I was gradually recognising a gap between gender equality and the actual strategic planning, accountability and day-to-day organisational culture practices taking place.
Over time, I came to realise there was a need for a comprehensive approach to organisational gender-based change and I was driven to explore ways I can make my message more visible and impactful.
In September 2017, I decided that I was ready to start working as a full-time gender consultant, but wasn’t sure how I would make it happen. I shared a post on Facebook about my new venture and Sinem got in touch shortly after. She had been having similar thoughts about advising businesses on gender-related issues, and she suggested a collaboration.
The main thing that kickstarted this collaboration was our similar understanding of what gender actually is. Both of us found the mainstream approach to matching gender with women (or sometimes LGBTI+) to be problematic. Instead, we see gender as a social structure that everyone interacts with in different ways. This viewpoint underlines all of our work and provides our clients with a much deeper organisational transformation.
How did you manage to make the idea for your company a reality?
This was not an easy path. We had to learn everything as we went along, from business management, finances, communications and of course the creation of content and our training, consulting process, etc. We were both working full time while building the business and were driven by our passion and commitment to gender equality in the deepest sense, as well as the excitement of creating something new and different.
Along the way we had a few pivotal moments:
In March 2018, we won the LSE Generate Entrepreneurial Funding Competition and were also finalists in the LSE Generate Entrepreneur of the Year Award. This pushed us to think of our business in a much more organised way and was the approval we needed to make us believe that our business idea was viable and profitable. We made very important contacts through these competitions and also started working with LSE Generate as our first client, who we provide with training and policy consultancy.
In October 2018, we received a startup loan from Virgin StartUp and became members of their funded club. The application process and the support we received from our consultant really helped focused our business planning, while the training, mentoring and networking opportunities Virgin Startup are currently offering are priceless.
Last month we received our biggest contract so far: advising UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) on a large-scale, year-long project on transforming workplaces through the increase of gender sensitivity, diversity and inclusion. This is a major breakthrough for us and we are very proud and excited to be working on this project.
Why do you think Genderscope is important?
I believe we are at a pivotal time in our history. We can see a superflux of gender-related issues in the workplace coming to the surface. To name a few: the gender pay gap, the representation of women in high-ranking executive positions, LGBTI+ and more specifically trans, non-binary and gender fluid people’s needs and rights, as well as sexual harassment. For us, this indicates the beginning of a major paradigm shift in our understanding of gender.
While these issues might be perceived as problems (and they are), we at Genderscope see them as opportunities for a gender transformation that would benefit all stakeholders. One of our major messages is that gender equality is good for business! We have ample research and case studies from the World Economic Forum and McKinsey & Company, as well as many more that showcase the tremendous potential in businesses’ commitment to gender equality and diversity.
Genderscope’s value lies in our comprehensive approach of exploring how gender dynamics impact everyone – all gender groups – in different ways. This is combined with the service we provide that looks at both the organisational culture and the policy and legal aspects.
How has your startup fared so far? What are your plans for the future?
We are very proud of what we have accomplished so far. Since we started, we have been featured in a Natwest article on women in business, participated in a panel on social entrepreneurship, given a talk on the future of gender in the workplace, become part of several valuable networks, published several articles and much more. We are constantly engaging with new ways to make our work and our views more visible, while we love the dynamic pace the entrepreneurial world offers with fascinating new opportunities at every turn.
Our most visible work so far is the creation of the LSE Generate Gender Sensitive Code of Conduct. We worked closely with the Generate team to explore the current policies at LSE that they wanted to reaffirm their commitment to, such as maternity and paternity leave, the LSE code of ethics, the LSE policy on disability, as well as the future action-driven commitments that demonstrate how they will be continuing to promote gender equality and diversity in the Generate program. The document is a living, breathing tool that is subject to annual reviews and regular monitoring, which ensures us that we will continue to push the envelope as the Generate entrepreneurial programme grows.
International Women's Day
International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the amazing achievements of so many women across the world, especially as many of them go unnoticed on other days of the year. For me, this day also raises questions about what kinds of values our society promotes and the imbalance we see between what is perceived as ‘masculine’ traits, such as competition, rationality and productivity, and what we perceive as ‘feminine’ traits, such as emotion, care and the ability to nurture. Our society is ready for a gender-based change and in order to achieve that we need to create a better balance between the values that drive our institutions and workplaces, both on the large scale and on the individual level. This will truly be for the benefit of everyone.
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