“The neglect of women’s rights means the social and economic potential of half the population is underused. In order to tap into this potential, we must open up spaces for women in political leadership, in science and technology, as trade and peace negotiators, and as heads of corporations.”
–Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director, speaking at the UN Women Launch Celebration on February 24, 2011–
One simple statistic is all we need to prove that championing women’s leadership must be a national and global imperative: The World Economic Forum, which tracks performance on gender equality measures in 134 counties, reports a clear correlation between progress in gender and GDP per capita.
Need more statistics? How about this: an extensive 19-year study of 215 Fortune 500 companies found that companies with the highest number of women on their boards were 53% more profitable than those with the fewest board members. In fact, three measures of profitability were used to show that the twenty-five Fortune 500 firms with the best record of promoting women to high positions are between 18 and 69 percent more profitable than median Fortune 500 firms in their industries. Powerful numbers that show the power of women’s leadership.
Under-Secretary Bachelet rightly underlined women’s rights not as an issue confined to one group or nation, but as a universal issue with verifiable effects on social vitality, political stability and economic growth. That’s why the organization has launched UN Women, to be a global champion of women’s rights.
Business, too, can be a champion for women’s rights. Be accessing the full talent pool, and investing in diversity. Women have power in society as decision-makers, owners, voters and consumers (to the tune of 83% of all consumer purchases). When this is not mirrored in the board room, lack of equality may damage of brand’s reputation and can be seen as part of a company’s risk profile. We have a ways to go: Bloomberg’s annual analysis of Standard & Poors’ 500 companies showed that more than 90% of the firms have female directors; however, not a single company has a board where the majority of directors are female.
Let’s crack the glass ceiling once and for all — and throw away the shards for good.