We are living in challenging times. Uncertainty, complexity and the speed at which everything is moving around us, has forced us to reflect on our societies, our priorities within business and the future of our planet. The recent pandemic has lead businesses and individuals to evaluate their focus and in some cases their ultimate goals and ways of working.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 emergence, the countries that had the best response happened to be those led by women: New Zealand, Taiwan, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Germany. These women leaders had in common their effective decision-making process, their innovative policies with gestures of solidarity and their empathy. They also showed transparency and closeness to citizens. And I would also dare to underline the feminine protective character, since many of these countries closed their borders and took measures before others even thought about it or even deny how serious the situation was.
Women leadership is neither better nor worse than that of men. It is just that some situations require a different type of management, with some specific competences that are more typical female.
The United Nations points out that women are key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Yes, we can openly say that women play a fundamental role in the sustainable development of the planet, society and of the economy.
It is already proven by different studies that those companies with a greater number of women in senior management positions are more competitive, innovative and productive. Specifically, the recent International Labour Organization (ILO) report ‘The business case for change’, covering 13,000 firms in 70 countries, concluded that companies with equal employment opportunity policies and gender-inclusive cultures are 60% more likely to experience enhanced reputation, and greater creativity and innovation. Of the companies surveyed that track the impact of gender diversity in management, 74% reported profit increases of 5-20%.
At the same time, the business case for gender diversity is clear: increasing the representation of women at the senior level and in leadership teams helps businesses be more sustainable. Companies with greater female representation on their boards tend to give higher priority to environmental and social issues (refer to ‘Better business, better world’ report).
Despite this, data is not very encouraging. Only 5% of companies in the world are led by women and just 20% of directors were women in 2019 (CatalystMarch 13, 2020). Even though, the business world is adapting to the need and values the female linked competencies for its executives , this is not enough as . gender equality must be achieved for a strategic reason of business competitiveness.
This is the reason why at WBCSD we decided to take action and support business by launching the LEAP program last year, addressed to companies but focused on women and sustainability. It is designed to open the horizons, and raise the awareness in business towards rethinking the world. We called it LEAP because it means a jump ahead, a jump ahead not only for women, but also for companies.
In this program, we combine two elements that we consider to be inseparable: women and sustainability. We try to make business more sustainable through women and we help women to reach top level positions within their companies. We train them in sustainability so that when they reach those positions of responsibility, they include sustainability in their leadership and business strategies.
Thus, with LEAP, , we have begun to stimulate companies around the world, through their leaders, men and women of these companies. We raise awareness so that companies, while remaining competitive, they can lead the change towards a healthy planet and towards a dignified society.