Thursday, March 8, 2018

Women are the Key to a More Sustainable Future

The importance of women to the future of our species goes way beyond their procreative power.  Female leadership is better leadership and this augurs a better world.

Women's Day is an opportunity to advocate for true equality and to share the evidence revealing why women are the more sustainable sex. Empowering them is good for people, the planet and profits. If we want to move forward we need to unambiguously assign blame. Women's rights are human rights and men that deny these rights need to be called out.

Men are the problem

We cannot ignore the fact that sexism and misogyny are not women's issues, these are problems that are being perpetrated by men so it stands to reason that men should be part of efforts to address these injustices.

This is not a plea for token quotas,  research corroborates the observation that women are better leaders than men. This makes the #metoo movement all the more prescient. The tragic ubiquity of women who have been subjected to abuse is a damning indictment against men. It has been said that behind every great man stands a woman, it is more appropriate to say that for every one of the billions of women who have suffered abuse there is a man. Even those men who don't overtly disrespect women, commonly condone it, or are afraid to speak out against it.

Men are not only the perpetrators of abuse, they have also been the dominant sex for thousands of years. During this time they have subjugating women and caused widespread social injustice, wealth inequality, environmental degradation and the climate crisis.

The research convincingly points to women being better eco-stewards. Whether we are talking about agriculture, the economy, political leadership or lifestyle, women are the more sustainable sex. Men have failed which is why it is not just a splashy headline to say women are humanity's best hope for survival.

Helping women to assume leadership positions advances social justice and environmental health. This is more than a plea for equality it is an acknowledgment of the fact that we need new leadership if we are to alter our perilous trajectory.

To make it possible for women to have greater access to power and resources we need to dismantle institutionalized sexism and even more importantly we need to confront the culture of misogyny that infects our world. The society that does not stand united in opposition to this sickness is a culture of enablers.

Political engagement

Women are not passively waiting for men to wake up. Women are taking to the streets and their halls of government to demand change, this includes protests against Donald Trump.  Two and a half million people participated in the Women's March in 2017 making it the biggest protest in US history.  The rise of women is not just an American phenomenon, it is a global movement.

Women are getting directly involved in government in unprecedented numbers (although they are still underrepresented) and they are seeking elected office. In response to the election of Trump an unprecedented number of women have stepped into the political fray.  In the last 14 months significant numbers of women have won elections in states where Trump won big in 2016. 

Women are among the most vulnerable to climate change which may be one of the reasons they are at the forefront of the call for change. In two years, the number of women mayors in large cities that are taking the lead on climate change has quadrupled from four to 16.

In the wake of Trump's victory a group of four female scientists working in the climate and ecology fields decided to start a group called 500 Women Scientists. That movement has grown and there are now more than 14,000 members who advocate for inclusiveness and oppose Trump's sexism and anti-science stance.

Environmental and agricultural stewardship

Women's leadership is capable of unleashing major economic opportunities in the sustainable economy. This is the conclusion from WomenRising2030, an initiative launched by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission. The recently released report is called Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goal.

Women are already involved in all levels of climate action.  The fact that women are more green than men has important implications for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  According to WorldWatch there is a "critical link between investing in women and achieving sustainability goals." Sadly WorldWatch concludes that the "omission of a strong focus on women and sustainability is not uncommon across the global community."  Nonetheless  there is evidence to indicate that women, "preserve traditional knowledge, maintain biodiversity, and ensure household food security and nutrition."

There is a $12 trillion "economic prize" associated with meeting the SDGs and women are our best hope of achieving these goals. 

Women are already a force in agriculture.  In Asia where women produce 50 percent of agricultural output and in Africa women represent nearly 80 percent of the agricultural labor force.  If women have equal access to agricultural resources, WorldWatch claims production could increase by up to 30 percent and hunger could decrease by up to 17 percent.

Economic empowerment

Women are the key to economic outperformance, says the new WomenRising2030 report. Women are already an economic force to be reckoned with but they are destined to be a far bigger force moving forward. Women now control about $20 trillion, or 30 percent of the world’s assets. That generates about $120 billion of the $415 billion in annual investment revenues. Women's interest in social and environmental impacts will also be reflected in their investment decisions.

It is important to note that, women are growing their assets faster than men and starting more businesses than men. Women-run small and growing businesses make up 30 percent of registered global businesses.

Women's economic clout is destined to grow prodigiously. Women are the next big global growth market and their economic empowerment will change the patriarchal paradigm. Over the next 35 years women will be part of the biggest wealth transfer in history. More than $40 trillion dollars will be transferred to women in the coming decades. By 2030 two thirds of the wealth in the US will be in women's hands.  According to one study cited by WorldWatch if men and women participated equally in the economy it would add $28 trillion to the GDP by 2025.

Women are also better leaders in the household. According to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, on average, women reinvest up to 90 percent of their incomes back into their own households, compared to 30-40 percent by men.

Workforce revolution

There’s a women’s business revolution going on and the value of women leaders is driving demand. "There is incredible value in investing in women’s leadership," said Vineet Rai, founder Aavishkar-Intellecap Group, a leading impact investor based in India.

The impact of women in business is assessed in a new WomenRising2030 report. The report indicates that women’s leadership in business is critical to driving significant economic opportunities and better performance, as well as broader, long-term benefits for society and the environment.

The influx of women into more senior positions will revolutionize the workplace. This includes transparency, environmental action, long-term thinking, innovative approaches to social issues and widespread collaboration.

Increased wealth and deeper penetration into the workforce will empower women and give them more resources to lead and enact change. However, access to education and gender inequality constitute serious obstacles.

Gender inequality

If we are to unleash the potential of women to revolutionize business and drive social and environmental betterment we need to tackle gender inequality and specifically workplace impediments. Even though research indicates that women tend to be more competent in social and environmental issues than men there is a massive gap between the sexes in senior positions. 

The statistics show the state of gender inequality.Women comprise only 15 percent of board seats worldwide and only 5 percent of chief executives listed in the S&P 500. 

Narrowing the gap in gender equality in the workplace can help unlock more than $12 trillion in new market value linked to the SDGs. A new report from BNY Mellon and the U.N. Foundation suggests that there is $40 billion in potential new annual revenue associated with bringing women’s access to financial services to parity with men’s. The "Powering Potential" report suggests this translates to an additional 254 million women with retail banking services, 79 million with a line of credit, 60 million with loans for education and other expenses, and 19 million with mortgage products. Only one in 10 women have access to the credit needed to operate and grow. That’s a $285 billion gap.

Despite all that they have to offer, women and girls continue to suffer from overt oppression in the form of discriminatory policies and less obvious forms of repression like poor health care and substandard education.

"Women’s leadership cannot be a 'nice-to-have' for business. Companies that continue to have male-dominated leadership will miss out on business opportunities unlocked by gender-balanced teams," said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever and member of the Business Commission. "At the current pace, it will take 217 years to achieve gender equality – and that’s bad news for economy and society. We at Unilever understand the importance of gender-balanced leadership and investments across our value chains. Women’s leadership makes good business sense."

There is an immense societal benefit associated with encouraging women to achieve their full potential. In both large and small ways men must support enjoin the struggle and fight for real equality. According to WorldWatch the private sector also has an important role to play. The WomenRising2030 report suggests that companies must build gender-balanced leadership teams, and promote gender equality throughout their value chains.

Change is coming

Corporations are essential to helping women to move beyond current limits. Companies are increasingly supporting programs that assist women. For example, companies like Symante and General Motors support STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education for women. Agora Partnerships, a Latin America social-venture accelerator, has partnered with Banco de America Central Nicaragua to test a variable-payment loan program with women-run small businesses.

As reported by ImpactAlpha, firms like Ellevest, a robo-adviser designed for women are making significant progress.
"Investment managers are making it easier to find women-led companies or companies that promote women’s financial inclusion and empowerment. In public equities, nearly two-dozen gender-lens investment vehicles hold more than $910 million. In venture capital, a list gathered by gender lens investing expert Suzanne Biegel and Wharton Social Impact initiative found 58 venture capital funds with $1.3 billion in assets that are betting on women."
Our world is changing and women will play an increasingly significant role. Women are already having advantageous effects. As reported by Leon Kaye, in a Triple Pundit article, women in technology management are benefiting a diverse range of nonprofit organizations. Part of this success is attributable to being inclusive and putting employees first.

Those that are not supporting gender equality are being called out. The world’s biggest asset manager, BlackRock, sent a letter to 367 organizations in the Russell 1000 companies asking them 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.

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