As we begin 2017 under uncertain political leadership and climate commitments, the power of the global corporation — and the corporate courage within them — couldn’t be more important. In order to remain relevant, inclusive leadership is no longer optional. Women in leadership are driving purpose.
In late November, I attended the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Conference – Purpose & Progress in Washington, D.C. All sessions featured great representation by women, but the biggest impact was the ground-breaking message they embodied.
Going Beyond Diversity and Inclusion
I heard from Deepa Purushothaman of Deloitte Consulting and Managing Director of WIN, Deloitte’s Women’s Initiative and Kendall O’Brien of Johnson & Johnson, among others, talk about how companies must go beyond ‘diversity and inclusion’.
Kendall O’Brien of Johnson & Johnson said, “We who have access to government, have a responsibility to help shape policy. We should not shy away.” She serves chair of the Women’s Leadership Initiative at J&J. Women’s Leadership Initiative, now in its 16th year, is a corporate-sanctioned, globally managed, volunteer organization that helps maintain a talent pipeline of strong women across the company. The WLI focuses on skills development, networking, mentoring and visibility for managers all the way up to VP and management board level, and the company promotes flexible work arrangements for our employees.
Deepa Purushothaman really brought the conversation full circle and tied in the conference theme of ‘purpose’ by predicting that “the evolution of the inclusion conversation happens more around purpose now.” She highlighted three points that illustrate how Deloitte is moving beyond ‘diversity and inclusion’:
- The dialogue must include all of us on how we foster a culture where everyone (including men) feel valued
- We must foster openness and transparency
- We need men to play an active role in the conversation
Closing the Inclusion Gap through Mobile First technology
Later that day, I attended the ‘Innovations in Digital Finance & Financial Capability’ working session, where Rosita Najmi of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation moderated a panel of financial experts on the challenges and opportunities regarding access to financial services, empowerment, and community development. Only later it dawned on me, when taking a photo of the panel, that all of these experts and leaders were women.
In order to achieve true financial inclusion, Leora Klapper of the World Bank, declared “giving a woman a safe place for her money is directly related to greater household spending on food, healthcare, education.”
Of particular interest to me and Emerge Interactive is the role that mobile will play to shrink the inclusion gap. Leveraging mobile banking and technology will play a huge role in furthering financial inclusion and reducing costs of providing financial services to unbanked and uneducated populations.
Olivia White of McKinsey & Company shared, “The number of people who have a mobile phone is much greater than those who have a bank account”, doubling down on Rosita Najmi’s opening message that mobile technology and financial literacy will strengthen communities around the globe by empowering women and elevating the poor. The Gates Foundation’s call to find solutions for the unbanked, under-banked, and financially illiterate is part of its larger global financial education and inclusion strategy to support and fund financial inclusion innovations.
Climate Superheroes Provide Context for Action
Just two weeks later, at the inaugural Companies vs. Climate Change conference in early December, Aman Singh co-led the conference (with Nick Aster of Triple Pundit) adding her dynamic personality and deep knowledge of global issues. But, it was more than just good facilitation. Aman is a strong leader who gently commands an audience. Her insights and approach provided relevant context to weave the other presenters’ messages together in a meaningful and actionable way.
On the final day of the conference, Jacqueline Drumheller, Sustainability Manager, Alaska Airlines, led a presentation highlighting leadership by Alaska Airlines and United Airlines in reducing carbon footprints, improving efficiency, and saving money at these two major airlines and at airports they serve. Jackie’s deep knowledge of corporate sustainability initiatives and the power of partnerships inspired attendees and served as an appropriate conclusion to the this new B2B event.
Women Drive Business Success
During the messy and dysfunctional recent campaign cycle, we heard a lot about the role of women in politics. With the nomination of Hillary Clinton, the US is inching closer and closer to seeing the glass ceiling shatter — nominating its first female Presidential candidate, several decades after some other countries (Great Britain, Germany, India, Ireland, Finland, Argentina, Israel, Brazil).
And, while we still have a ways to go to get more women in the boardroom and C-suite, the impact, strength, and contribution of women was definitely at the forefront in late 2016. Now that we are solidly in 2017, the powerful leadership of women in business continues to impact global trends.