As co-founder and CEO of Equileap, Diana van Maasdijk ’93 is a global force in the fight for workplace gender equity. Equileap uses investment capital to promote equity, staking out a position as “the leading organization providing data and insights on gender equality in the corporate sector.” Van Maasdijk answers some questions for us about what she does and why she does it.
Why did you make gender equality your life’s work?
I have both a Dutch and Ecuadorian background, and always enjoyed reading about political and feminist theories that explained issues at a macro and micro level and in different countries. Even in the richest countries, poverty has the face of a woman - and it’s the structural social, cultural, and economic gender inequalities that keep all women from becoming economically independent and reaching their full potential.
At Hamilton, I majored in world politics and minored in women’s studies. My women’s studies classes, and in particular some books written by feminist women of color, sparked my interest for gender equality at an international level. After Hamilton, I got my master’s in international development (with a focus on gender) from American University’s School of International Service.
I started my career working for nonprofits, initially in the U.S., then in Senegal, and finally in the Netherlands, where I have lived for 20 years. After my third son was born, I left my job at MamaCash, the oldest international women’s fund, to support philanthropists as a consultant. That took me to my last job for ABN AMRO bank where the idea behind Equileap was born.
Read about other alumni who are making an impact in their professions and communities throughout the world.
How did you reach the decision to co-found Equileap?
I was disappointed to keep reading reports on the pay gap, the lack of women in leadership positions, or sexual harassment in the workplace more than 20 years after graduating from Hamilton. I felt we needed a new strategy to tackle gender parity at a global level. Policy and awareness-raising work could only do so much - and the idea of using the power of money to create change at a faster pace was born.
At Equileap, we set up a team of researchers who assess thousands of companies in 23 countries - covering all major developed market indices. Today, we provide insights that help investors and companies make informed decisions that lead to a more just and equal global economy. We research and score companies on their gender balance throughout the company as well as workplace policies, gender pay gap, parental leave and more.
What are Equileap’s biggest successes?
- Building a unique database with over 3,500 companies assessed on transparency and progress towards achieving gender equality.
- Having nearly 20 of the biggest financial service providers globally license our gender equality data.
- Engaging with leading companies worldwide and encouraging them to disclose their gender equality data publicly. We can’t begin to solve a problem until we understand where we’re coming from, so data is the number one step toward equality.