By Gail Klintworth, Non Executive Director and Board Advisor - Partner at SYSTEMIQ
This week, our new report shows that all of society – as well as the economy and the environment – benefits when more women lead in business.
The release of Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goals coincides with a critical inflection point on gender equality in the workplace. The heightened attention on gender equality is not just about how women benefit as individuals; it’s about the broad benefits to society when women have an equal voice – within their communities as well as in business and government – to lead for the world we want.
Better Leadership, Better World shows gender-balanced leadership can help unleash a massive economic prize – more than US$12 trillion per year – for companies that align their strategies with the Sustainable Development Goals: 17 objectives to end poverty and hunger, reduce inequalities and tackle environmental challenges by 2030.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, women’s equal participation in the economy could significantly enhance the ultimate reward, adding as much as US$28 trillion to global annual gross domestic product by 2025.
Our findings show when more women are in corporate decision-making positions, their companies benefit – as do society and the environment. A study conducted by the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business of more than 1,500 global corporations found that compared to companies with less gender-balanced boards, those with more women board members offer more goods and services to communities with limited or no access to financial products. Those organisations also tend to prioritise environmental issues and are likely to invest in renewable power, low-carbon products, and energy efficiency. This contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, or the Global Goals, as they are also known.
Better Leadership, Better World is a call to action for women to take the first step by recognising the power they have to effect change through their roles in business. We also call on companies to drive forward their sustainability agendas by ensuring meaningful opportunities for diverse leadership and establishing gender equality at every link in the value chain.
Our report also identifies six leadership competencies critical to successfully developing business opportunities in line with the Global Goals: long-term thinking, innovation, collaboration, transparency, environmental management, and social inclusiveness. Research highlighted in the report underscores that women in business can play a critical role in deploying these six competencies within more gender-balanced leadership teams.
To achieve the goals by 2030, we need all leaders, both men and women, in the private sector – from senior executives and board members to managers and investors – to value and embed the leadership skills that will unlock these sustainable business opportunities at speed and scale.
There are some promising signs that the winds are starting to shift. In January of this year, the world’s biggest asset manager, BlackRock, sent a letter to Russell 1000 companies with fewer than two women directors – an estimated 367 companies. The letter asked these companies to justify how the lack of gender diversity on their boards aligned with their long-term strategies and to report on their efforts to address this gender imbalance. At the same time, the UN announced it had achieved gender parity across its leadership.
We can’t sit back and wait for the world we want – one that is fairer, inclusive and sustainable for all. Meaningful change can happen. First, we need to speak in a language that consistently highlights the positive impacts for individual companies when there is gender-balanced leadership. Second, we need to break out of the echo chamber. Business needs to have more open dialogue with both men and women to challenge the status quo, and companies need to prioritise these conversations at every level.
I hope this report will motivate companies to see the incredible economic opportunities available if they align their strategies with the Global Goals, and to see women as a critical key to unlocking them. I also hope it will inspire women in business to recognise and act on the power they have to make a difference, and inspire our male colleagues to join us.
We need individual commitment and collective action within companies and across industries to achieve real change. You can help by simply sharing this report with your company’s leadership, colleagues and peers.
To learn more about WomenRising2030, visit www.womenrising2030.com
Note: Gail Klintworth is championing this work on behalf of the Business and Sustainable Development Commission (BSDC), where she has served and Business Transformation Director. The BSDC was a two-year initiative to make a compelling case for companies to align with the Global Goals. Its flagship report, Better Business, Better World, shows how sustainable business models could unlock more than US$12 trillion in new market value and create up to 380 million jobs by 2030.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a LinkedIn series for International Women’s Day, demonstrating how leadership and partners of the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society help to #PressForProgress. #IWD18