International Women’s Day provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a female leader today. To stand up and lead with strength that comes from the heart. To drive forward our business and political organizations with purpose and impact.
Wondering what the Queen had meant by “harsh progress”, I propose an answer at the intersection of feminism and sustainable (“conscious”) capitalism. This movement recognizes that the “harsh progress” has resulted in environmental and social crises. Frankly, our world is on fire as the outdated model of shareholder primacy has largely ignored all other stakeholders. Instead, conscious leaders seek to elevate humanity through business and use business to solve systemic problems and create global impact.
A significant body of research has found that women are driven by social impact and purpose. Women who are in positions of power use that power to “breathe care” into the most important issues facing our world – environmental action, a future of work that is equitable and inclusive, a focus on collective well-being. The foundation of feminism is not only advancing women’s rights but elevating overall society by women’s inclusion. Hence, women often see business as a force for good – they see the need for profit through purpose – not profit at the expense of others. Certainly, many men do as well, but on International Women’s Day let’s give ourselves permission to celebrate women’s important contributions without restraint!
The face of leadership has progressively changed over the last several decades to be more inclusive – but gender equality is still an ambitious and far away goal. Women are finding systemic barriers to inspire leadership and leaving their organizations. According to the McKinsey Women in the Workplace Report, “women leaders are switching jobs at the highest rates we’ve ever seen, and ambitious young women are prepared to do the same.” Looking at data from 333 participating organizations employing more than 12 million people, McKinsey concluded that women are leaving cultures and systems that are not serving them – clearly many organizations are in danger of losing their top talent. Such a trend is alarming for women and more broadly for the positive systemic impact these women would otherwise be able to create.
On this International Women’s Day, we urge organizations to foster their female talent – for their own bottom line and for our positive collective future. One way is creating a peer community in which women can learn and grow, share their challenges, and navigate their journey together. Over the years facilitating such peer conversations, we have seen women develop personal power and anchor the ability for leading and empowering others for broader positive impact.
Let’s celebrate women’s achievement past, present and future. Happy International Women’s Day!