IWD 2023: women leaders championing change

by Safia Minney MBE

Women now have 40% of Board seats of the FTSE 400 companies, but why does radical change seem so elusive?  We need a huge transformational shift and for those so-called ‘female attributes’ of communication, collaboration, holistic thinking, creativity and caring to be central to building our new economic system. Women make up a tiny percentage of decision-making roles like Chair and CEO and that’s where women and society are losing out.

Vested interests and old habits established in the fossil-fuel based, linear economy are proving very sticky. Companies are trying to meet their targets but not willing to change their culture. And without very active championing of a new culture, we are stuck with bias, misogyny with an undercurrent of this toxicity running through social media, advertising and porn. We still have a long way to go to address equality and equity. I love these 8 key respect at work and tips for boards by Claire Braund of Women On Boards . I’m concerned that very real invisible hands are dragging female leaders down, exhausting them, and sapping their energy away from transforming their organisations – just when we need them most.

We need the power of women to build an urgent shift from the old economy to ‘ecological economics’. This means promoting degrowth and redesigning every industry to fit within planetary boundaries, and redistributing wealth to meet everyone’s needs to build a flourishing society. It means doing the opposite to what we are doing in our current economy. The new economy will pay to reduce inequality, protect and restore nature and strengthen communities – and we will all radically benefit from it.

womens protest

Ecological economics means redistributing voice and power too, greatly raising the wellbeing, quality of life and economic empowerment of women, girls, ethnic minorities, and indigenous people globally. There is no shortage of solutions, what we lack is the will. And whose vested interests are getting in the way of real challenge and change.  

Male leaders will benefit too. Throughout my coaching male clients, I’ve come to appreciate just how difficult it is to for men to express themselves openly and authentically, often feeling trapped in a culture of toxic masculinity. Despite the science of global heating being clear, many hold back showing their ‘feminine’ qualities, expressing themselves emotionally. We need to bring our whole selves and everyone on this journey to build a new ecological economy. 

For women, now is our time to lead change. We must raise our voices with courage. For women in every sector, now is the time for truth, to build new models of production and consumption; new terms of trade to empower rather than exploit workers in supply chains; partnerships with suppliers to rapidly decarbonise and regenerate ecosystems and communities.

We must reimagine organisations and societies designed to regenerate natural systems, redistribute wealth and support those who champion these ideas and have the expertise in each sector. Our ideas and lived experience deserve to be supported.

Snapping at our heels, the dysfunctional growth-driven fossil-fuel dependent, misogynistic, economy goes round and round like a scratched record. Little wonder that female leaderships’ full potential is yet to be released for the benefit of humanity and the planet.

Happy International Women’s Day. With thanks to all the amazing women, everywhere, who work on the ground and campaign for social and climate justice.