21st Century Strategy: More women is good for business

“If the increased inclusion of women at all levels of business provides tangible benefits for equality and the economy, then why is progress so slow?” asked Silvana Koch-Mehrin, Founder and President of WPL to the panelists of the session ‘21st Century Strategy: More women is good for business’ which took place on September 22nd 2020.

Women Political Leaders (WPL) and Arizona State University (ASU) co-hosted this session as part of the United Nations Global Compact’s ‘Uniting Business’ LIVE event to mark the opening of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, 

The answer to this question lies in business strategy, and international organisations and governments alike have a clear role to play. Research clearly demonstrates that national GDPs experience measurable improvements when more women participate in the economy and workforce. As suggested by Rania Al-Mashat, Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation and Minister of Tourism (2018-2020), “It has therefore become essential to reframe the conversation and shift it from a gender issue to an economic issue.”

Additionally, companies need to speak out on equality between women and men in the workplace, as they themselves benefit from having a more equitable and diverse workforce. For Ann Cairns, Executive Vice-Chair and President of Mastercard, “It is crucial to enable a culture of inclusion. This includes providing both maternal and paternal leave, encouraging risk-taking, and having gender-neutral job specifications and blind interviews.” 

Dr. Juliane Hilf, Partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, agrees that a culture of inclusion within the workplace is imperative. She also underlined the fact that “External pressure is necessary to incite greater progress as companies comply with clients’ demands.” 

While “on the surface” policies are indeed important, as both Ann Cairns and Juliane Hilf noted, society must also tackle “below the surface” policies, according to Amy Weaver, President of Legal and Corporate Affairs at Salesforce. Therefore, to encourage diversity, workplaces and businesses must ask the question: “What are the different ways of succeeding and being a leader?” The voices of women in high-level positions need to be amplified, along with acknowledgment of their unique form(s) of leadership.” Amy Weaver emphasised that the world of business looks at “the results, rather than how you get to that result.

Figuring out how to include more women in the business sector may not seem straightforward to some, but it is nonetheless vital. As the COVID-19 crisis continues to disproportionately impact women, business strategies must acknowledge what is at stake, both for women and for the future of the global economy. 

Mauris Lauri, Member of the Parliament, Deputy Chair of the Finance Committee, WPL Ambassador, and Estonian Minister of Finance (2014–2015) and Minister of Education and Research (2016), outlined an important strategy for equality: “positive shifts can be made within the workplace if the power of technology and remote working is harnessed to ensure equal access and opportunity.” Encouraging women (and girls) to work with technology represents an impactful strategy for increasing equality, according to Mauris Lauri

To wrap up the discussion, Silvana Koch-Mehrin and Amy Weaver reminded the audience that women are often questioned on their proven abilities and skills (unlike their male counterparts). To create a better, more equal and more profitable future, it is critical that biases and negative perceptions of women as leaders be eradicated. 

This panel featured high-level women leaders, from both business and politics, engaging in a critical discussion on how to advance equality between women and men in the workplace. The conversation underscored that achieving equality and improving gender diversity will not only benefit women, but will boost business outcomes as well. 

Watch the full session here: https://buff.ly/3mXFdwK