Over the past few years, I have been watching the role of women increase at the global level. Corporate initiatives such as that of Cisco, Nike, and The Cola Cola Company have embraced the position of women not only within the corporation, but also within the communities they operate. Micro-lending is done predominantly to women with the knowledge that bringing women into the world economy is the predominant ingredient in developing a community, if not a nation. Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, said in 2005–“soon we saw that money going to women brought much more benefit to the family than money going to the men. So we changed our policy and gave a high priority to women. As a result, now 96% of our four million borrowers in Grameen Bank are women.” Corporations such as Whole Foods Market have followed this model with the mission of the Whole Planet Foundation which provides micro-loans to women in global communities where they source products for their stores.
I mention The Coca Cola company above as last month the company announced at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting that it was “committed to boosting economic opportunities for some 5 million women entrepreneurs in its business system by 2020,” according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle (9/21). “In Africa, Coca-Cola wants to grow its ‘micro distribution centers,’ an independent network of entrepreneurs who distribute Coke’s beverage products to retailers, often by bicycle or pushcart.”
Last Fall, I wrote a Fast Company article (or post) on Bonnie Nixon, Former Director of Environmental Sustainability and Corporate Citizenship. HP–Interview With A Corporate Green Hero. In the process of interviewing Bonnie, I was very aware of a set of skills she brought to the table in mitigating issues with the corporation’s stakeholders in all parts of of the world. That skill-set includes having empathy and understanding for the humans behind the issues. It also includes having a “worldview” perspective that grasps the connectivity of each person to the greater operation of the organization. That greater operation oftentimes includes “the greater good” as companies serve to solve social and environmental issues through the nature of their relationships. Traditionally, women tend to embody the concept of oneness and connectivity as it related to this corporate “greater good.”
Last year, I was inspired to create a blog (or more of a project) which addresses the global nature of women within social and environmental solutions. This project, called Women Are Saving The World Now has led me to interview many corporate women, from Anisa Telwar (president of Anisa International–a company that manufactures cosmetic tools in China) to Hital Muraj (a leader for Cisco in Kenya who manages the company’s relationship in Africa with CGI). In all of these interviews, I see similar traits of empathy and connectivity.
I am writing about this issue today as I believe we are just beginning to see the shift in balance as more women step into a position of leadership within corporations, not out of equality but out of necessity. I don’t mean to say that women have the corner on “heart,” as men certainly posses the ability to lead with heart, but it is women who are more readily able to comprehend the complete balance of the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit–and to put the balance of all three ahead of the profit component alone. To me, this understanding is beyond “doing the right thing” and is more about creating corporations which will survive and even thrive in the current world economic condition. After all, isn’t the true definition of the word “sustain” to hold, carry, nurture, nourish and grow. And, hasn’t this always been the great strength of our women?