Commission Finds Gender Equity in Workplace Key to Unlocking Growth
Photo by IISD | Lynn Wagner
story highlights

In advance of International Women’s Day, the 'WomenRising2030’ initiative released a report that focuses on the role of gender equality in the workplace in enhancing environmental and social impacts and unlocking business growth.

The report calls for more businesses to value the leadership competencies critical to achieving the SDGs, integrate the SDGs into their core business strategies, build gender-balanced leadership teams and promote gender equality throughout value chains.

5 March 2018: The Business and Sustainable Development Commission’s ‘WomenRising2030’ initiative released a report that highlights the role of gender equality in the workplace in enhancing environmental and social impacts and unlocking business growth. The report suggests that gender equality in the workplace can help generate over US$12 trillion in market value linked to the SDGs.

The Commission’s report titled, ‘Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goals,’ identifies six leadership competencies critical to developing business opportunities to ensure progress on the SDGs, particularly SDG 5 (gender equality) and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth). These leadership traits are: collaboration; environmental management; innovation; long-term thinking; social inclusiveness; and transparency.

Companies with more women on their boards are more likely to invest in energy efficiency, low-carbon products and renewable power generation.

The report argues that women can play a key role in using the six competencies in more gender-balanced leadership teams. For example, evidence suggests that businesses with more women in high-level management positions are better able to shift their business’s focus towards longer-term goals. Companies with more women on their boards are more likely to invest in energy efficiency, low-carbon products and renewable power generation, which supports progress on SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) and SDG 13 (climate action). Such companies also are more likely to offer employees stronger benefits and better working conditions.

According to the report, its findings represent a call to action for more businesses to value the leadership competencies critical to achieving the SDGs, integrate the SDGs into their core business strategies, build gender-balanced leadership teams and promote gender equality throughout value chains. The report argues that these steps will position companies to capture the business opportunities offered by the SDGs, accelerate progress towards a more prosperous, sustainable future for all, and strengthen their overall culture and business performance.

The report also addresses the “multiplier effect” of gender equality on all the SDGs. The report cites the economic benefits of increasing gender equality, pointing to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute that finds if women and men played an identical role in the labor market, the world would add US$28 trillion a year to boost global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025. Efforts to increase gender equality also can contribute to progress on access to finance and technology, in line with SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and increased agricultural yields, in line with SDG 2 (zero hunger), among other outcomes.

Women’s leadership “cannot be a ‘nice-to-have’ for business,” stressed Unilever CEO Paul Polman, who noted that it will take 217 years to achieve gender equality if the world continues at its current pace. He said companies with male-dominated leadership miss out on business opportunities that gender-balanced teams identify. The world is “at a tipping point when it comes to equality in the workplace,” explained Marisa Drew, CEO of Credit Suisse’s Impact Advisory and Finance Department, who is featured in the report. Drew stressed when all employees share a vision of the future that is more fair, inclusive and sustainable business also benefits.

The report showcases interviews with 25 senior women leaders on the personal qualities that they believe have helped them to be effective leaders on the SDGs. The report also features a number of studies on the financial incentives for companies to achieve gender balance at all levels.

Also on gender equality in the workplace, participants at the Fourth Global Forum on Business for Gender Equality committed to promote gender equality in the workplace, including as a strategy to achieve the SDGs. In the Forum’s ‘Call to Action of Chile,’ governments, the private sector and union members commit to “work every day” to promote equality and inclusion, and to change working conditions to achieve greater equality between women and men. The Forum convened in Santiago, Chile, from 27-28 February 2018, organized by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Chile in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UN Women. [Business Commission Press Release] [Publication: Better Leadership, Better World] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on Fourth Global Forum]

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