In recent months, big companies including Google, Uber, CBS, and Nike have all faced the need to address employees' demands for cultural change while improving their reputations with investors and the public at large.
The first three went through controversies related to their sexual misconduct policies, while Nike faces an ongoing class action lawsuit over allegations of gender bias.
A small but growing group of female-focused businesses has sprung up to address those concerns.
Two, The 3% Movement and Have Her Back, described how they're seeking to appeal to clients in the tech, advertising, media, and consumer goods industries, and why they see a growing need for their services.
Have Her Back is targeting 'the biggest brands' in tech, media and CPG
Caroline Dettman, former chief creative officer at PR firm Golin, told Business Insider she started Have Her Back as a campaign designed to support female creatives who saw their careers derailed after filing sexual harassment complaints.
The idea to turn that effort into a business emerged when a related, standing room-only event in Silicon Valley last year attracted executives from tech giants like HP and Adobe.
Dettman said that's when companies started seeking her out for advice on projects ranging from product launches focused on female empowerment to internal culture and communications development. Late last month, the executive and her co-founders left their jobs to launch Have Her Back with a minority investment from Golin's parent company, IPG. She said they planned to target "the biggest brands and companies" in technology, consumer goods, and media.
As an example of the sort of challenge her new company would like to solve, co-founder and fellow Golin veteran Erin Gallagher pointed to Nike's decision to revise its maternity leave policies for female athletes following a New York Times op-ed by track champion Alysia Montaño.
"It doesn't matter if you're telling a beautiful story externally when you're not treating your people well," Gallagher said.
The 3% Movement sees growth opportunity in tech
The 3% Movement, which helped launch the initial Have Her Back campaign, started as an events business before expanding into consulting services for ad agencies and has more recently begun working with tech and media companies.
For example, 3% has a pending contract with a "major media company" that wants to provide "ambassador training" to agency partners and another with an unnamed brand that would allow all the shops on its roster to go through 3%'s certification process.
"The reasons women are stalled in those industries are not dissimilar: Same hell, different drapes," said founder Kat Gordon.
According to pitch decks obtained by Business Insider and sources who went through the 3% audit, the company charges a flat rate of $25,000 that increases based on the size of the organization in question. Have Her Back declined to discuss its pricing.
3%'s entry into the tech field stemmed from the fact that brands such as Google, Twitter, and Adobe are among the biggest sponsors of its signature conference along with events like Adcolor, an annual gathering that celebrates minority talent. Gordon said tech companies see these events as "a talent play" where they can poach young ad creatives.
Gordon said her group, which wins accounts primarily from word-of-mouth referrals, would "absolutely" consult to companies going through crises like Google's 2018 walkout, in which some 17,000 employees protested the company's sexual misconduct policies.
"I like to say we run into burning buildings," she added.
Upstarts have to compete with the likes of Bain and McKinsey
Both companies may ultimately have to compete against big-name firms like Bain, McKinsey and PwC that companies often turn to for audits (though these organizations have also publicly struggled with pay equity and related matters).
Both firms said they see few direct competitors in the current market, though.
Dettman said Have Her Back lacked the bureaucracy of larger firms and had expertise in dealing with gender-specific issues that those big firms lack.
"The big consultancies have been built by men," she added, noting that women represent an estimated 85% of the buying power in the modern economy.