When Women Rule the C-Suite

Women in BusinessI have a theory. It is that once women rule the "C-suite," corporate social responsibility (CSR) will become the norm for U.S. business. Why? Call me sexist, but I think that helping others is a function of nurturing and comes more naturally to women than it does to men.

The idea that organizations have responsibilities beyond making payroll and profits is more intuitive for women leaders. Tending to the needs of communities, offering child care for employees, providing time for volunteerism and environmental consciousness—it all will be a given. When a woman inhabits the C-Suite, socially responsible thinking will be baked right into the organization's DNA.

Here are four proof points, which I stipulate are patently unscientific:

1. More Women Work in Nonprofits. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, women make up about two-thirds of the nonprofit work force. This may be because nonprofit employment allows for a life balance that appeals to women. It may also be true that it's easier for women to sacrifice pay and benefits for the opportunity to work for a cause they believe in. Whatever the reason, it seems that women are more likely than men to spend their time and energy focused on others.

2. More Women Volunteer. The U.S. Department of Labor report shows that women volunteer at a higher rate than men across all age groups, educational levels, and other major demographic characteristics. The psychologist Dr. Val Hannemann says that women volunteer because they are hard-wired to be engaged in their communities. Volunteering connects women, and expands their sense of community. They share, they empathize, and they adopt new strategies to make a difference in the world.

3. More Women Give to Charity. A study from the Center for Philanthropy on gender and generational differences in motivations for giving showed that women are more likely to give than men (85.6% compared with 80.7%), and that women feel a strong sense of responsibility to help those who have less in our society (30% versus 26%). Although it is widely assumed that women are more charitable than men, The Wall Street Journal poll puts a number on it: wealthy women give away nearly twice as much as of their wealth as their male counterparts.

Peace Corps 4. More Women Join the Peace Corps. Founded in 1961, the Peace Corps sends volunteers to serve in countries all over the world. Health and safety risks are an inherent part of service as volunteers serve worldwide, often in very remote areas. Volunteers are asked to make a commitment to live in a foreign country and adjust to a new culture while helping locals with education, community development, and the environment. The conditions can be rough, with very few creature comforts. Peace Corps volunteers are 60% female and 40% male.

So how do we know women CEOs would embrace CSR? Frankly, right now we don't, because the sample size of women in CEO positions is statistically insignificant. As of this year, there are 28 women CEOs in Fortune 1000 companies. While women make up 56 percent of the American workforce, only 2.8% of the Fortune 1000 companies are led by female CEOs.

But I am ever hopeful. For the first time in 220 years, three women are now serving on the United States Supreme Court. If we can trust women to decipher our laws and ensure that the United States remains a land guided and governed by the Constitution, maybe one day we can trust them to run Procter & Gamble?

For those women who are patiently waiting to take the CEO reins and help change the world, here is a quote to live by from one notable woman at the top:

"There were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. You want to be in the first group; there is much less competition."

—Indira Gandhi

Ann Charles is founder and CEO of BRANDfog, offering social media and corporate social responsibility strategy (CSR) for CEOs. She is also founder and producer of the Great Leaders Conference, an event honoring great leaders in CSR, social advocacy, sustainability, and innovation; speakers include Fast Company columnist Nancy Lublin, Yele Haiti Founder Wyclef Jean, Zappos CEO Tony Hseih, Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz, among others. Fast Company Editor Robert Safian will help moderate Q&A sessions. Register today at Great Leaders Conference.

Add New Comment

3 Comments

  • Israel Kloss

    Most the theories in this article are backed up by the female leadership roles in the Swedish government. They have a mandate of 1/2 female leadership in congress and by extension there is a CSR influence coming from Sweden that is an example to the entire world.

    In 1995, Sweden became the first country to have an equal number of women and men in ministerial posts. By the end of 2002, Argentina, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Mozambique, the Netherlands Norway, South Africa and Sweden had reached a goal of 30 percent of parliamentary seats being held by women.

    Sexist or not... this article is just right... 50% women in the Swedish congress speaks a lot about the below policies. Please note how high the CSR is in Sweden:

    FROM: http://uspolitics.about.com/od...

    In 1995, Sweden became the first country to have an equal number of women and men in ministerial posts. By the end of 2002, Argentina, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Mozambique, the Netherlands Norway, South Africa and Sweden had reached a goal of 30 percent of parliamentary seats being held by women.

    FROM: http://www.cepr.net/documents/...

    Workers in Sweden are entitled to paid annual leave of 25 working days, or five weeks. They have a right to take at least four of these weeks consecutively, between June and August.
    Moreover, if a worker becomes sick during their annual leave, the days of their illness are no longer counted toward their leave allowance.
    They also receive “holiday pay” of 12 percent of the wages they would have earned during their leave.
    This holiday pay applies to normal workers, as well as temporary replacement staff, short- term employees and employees on probation who have worked for more than 60 hours for an employer.
    If a worker leaves a position without taking all of their leave, they will still receive the holiday pay for their unused leave.
    Union workers are allowed additional leave apart from annual vacation.
    Swedish law requires employers to allow workers to take paid leave for any days needed to fulfill union responsibilities.
    This leave is paid at the worker’s normal salary (without additional holiday pay).
    Finally, there are 12 public holidays in Sweden, but employers are not required to provide paid leave on these days.

    FROM WIKIPEDIA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P...
    Sweden is one country which provides generous parental leave: all working parents are entitled to 16 months paid leave per child, the cost being shared between employer and the state. To encourage greater paternal involvement in child-rearing, a minimum of 2 months out of the 16 is required to be used by the "minority" parent, in practice usually the father, and some Swedish political parties on the political left argue for legislation to oblige families to divide the 16 months equally between both parents.

  • Melanie Wells

    Great post, Ann. Interesting that PepsiCo, under a woman CEO and a woman CMO launched Pepsi Refresh. Here are some other interesting CSR efforts. I wonder how many were spearheaded by women....
    http://bit.ly/cCRoxP