The Sustainable Development Goals are a blueprint for a future with no poverty, where the planet is protected, and all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Businesses will need to play a core role in achieving the Global Goals, but it won’t be through business as usual. There needs to be new thinking and a different type of leadership. It’s a leadership that already exists – in our communities, our societies, governments and business. It’s there, waiting to be activated and utilised; but far too often it’s under-recognised – women’s leadership.
Women and women’s leadership are the keys to making significant progress on the Global Goals and unlocking the benefits to be gained from taking action. Women have long been seen as beneficiaries of action on gender equality but they are also powerful agents of change. In its report Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goals, the Business and Sustainable Development Commission found six leadership competencies critical for success in developing business opportunities that are in line with the Global Goals: long-term thinking, innovation, collaboration, transparency, environmental management and social inclusiveness. These important competencies are most-prevalent in teams that are gender balanced and include women in leadership roles.
Women have long been seen as beneficiaries of action on gender equality but they are also powerful agents of change.
There is evidence that women leaders and women generally are highly motivated to make a positive impact on the world through their work. Two-thirds of female CEOs who took part in a study by Korn Ferry said they were 'motivated by a sense of purpose and believed that the company could have a positive impact on its community, its employees, or the world around them'. This desire to make an impact on the world around them make women leaders a powerful driving force for achieving the global goals.
While some progress has been made, gains in gender equality, particularly enabling more women’s leadership, have been painfully slow. According to a survey conducted by the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society of their Rising Talents community, a group of highly talented women identified as being on their way to becoming influential figures, only 20% believe that women are encouraged to pursue leadership roles at work. The economic benefits if we can move the needle on women’s leadership are well-documented: If women and men were to participate in the economy at the same levels, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates US$28 trillion could be added to global annual GDP by 2025.
This is not to say that women, by virtue of their gender, are better than men at seizing the business opportunities offered by the Global Goals. It’s about balance and the need to recognize the value of gender balance in leadership teams and the benefits it brings to companies. It is about working together for better outcomes, for business, for society and for the planet.
This desire to make an impact on the world around them make women leaders a powerful driving force for achieving the global goals.
Gender equality needs to be a priority and we need to speed efforts significantly. We need to break down barriers within society and workplaces to help women achieve their potential. Their leadership on the Global Goals can inspire others to take action to create a better, more equal, more sustainable world for everyone.
And, in case you’re wondering, getting to that world won’t require economic tradeoffs. According to research by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, taking action on the Global Goals offers the greatest economic opportunity of our time – opening up market ‘hot spots’ that will be worth an estimated US$12 trillion by 2030 in business savings and revenue and will create up to 380 million jobs worldwide. So what are we waiting for?
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