CEOs for Women’s Empowerment: Why It’s Time for Action

Huffington Post – According to Fortune, only 5 percent of Fortune 1000 companies have female CEOs. In today’s global business climate, women continue to strive to break through barriers that keep them from achieving their professional potential — their male counterparts need to step up to the plate to help them get there.

Today, there are roughly 58 million girls out of school. The lack of access to basic education is directly correlated to a woman’s capacity to successfully get involved in her economy, either as an entrepreneur or as an employee.

In order to make true change, we have to lead by example and advocate for business training, access to education and appoint women to positions of authority in our businesses. At Tupperware Brands, about 40 percent of the board of directors are women. In our organization, we have three group presidents, two of them women. We have five candidates for CEO succession, three of them are women.

Typically, the women’s empowerment message is championed by women and tends to attract a mostly female audience, however campaigns such as HeForShe, launched by UN Women, are starting a new trend — a movement that calls for men to stand in solidarity for women’s equality.

Recently, I signed on to the HeForShe campaign and, along with my wife Susan, was honored with the Voice for Women award from the Sewall Belmont House and Museum. I’m asking more male leaders to set the tone at the top — not just to meet a requirement, but because you see the great opportunity, for business and the world, that women’s equal participation in every aspect of business represents.

Men for women leaders

In the era of “Lean In,” it’s no secret that getting more women into positions of power produces huge results for companies and for the global economy. In short, it makes good business sense. For instance, according to the Third Billion report, if more Egyptian women were involved in the market, the country’s GDP would increase by 34 percent. Unfortunately, getting women involved in the market is going too slow.

For example, although India implemented a Companies Act in 2013 requiring all companies listed on stock exchanges to have at least one women on its board of directors, more than half of the listed companies in India have yet to appoint a single woman director to the board.

In the U.S., women on average make 77 percent of what their male counterparts make. There needs to be a stronger women’s leadership presence in the business world, and more CEOs must step up to help make this happen.

Take a look at Muhtar Kent, the CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. Kent partnered with the UN Women to create the 5 BY 20 initiative. The program aims to enable the empowerment of women entrepreneurs by addressing the barriers they commonly face by providing increased access to business skills training, financial services and support networks of peers and mentors.

This is one of my favorite examples of true progress. Kent is a male CEO who hits the nail on the head when it comes to women’s leadership. Solid change in the way we conduct business is the only way we’ll see real benefits, and the ripple effect is worth the effort.

The ripple effect – how women’s empowerment changes the world

At Tupperware Brands, we’ve seen that unlocking the economic potential of women triggers a virtuous cycle of investment in the community, and gives economies a much-needed kick-start. Provide a woman with microfinance knowledge, coaching, mentorship and the right tools, and here’s what happens: she gains financial independence and recognition, giving her a sense of confidence. This new confidence changes her relationship with families, neighbors and friends, and becomes contagious, influencing those around her.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, says this is the decade for women’s equality. We cannot have another decade pass with half the population struggling to receive a basic education or have access to leadership positions in business and government. Women are today’s untapped agents of economic change, and the ripple effect that happens when they take on leadership roles is transformational.

The proof points are there. Empowering women makes an impact: focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and conflict, which is why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women. As for the office, studies show women’s advancement in the workforce does not just make women themselves happy, but men as well — stimulating growth and advancement.

Tomorrow’s prosperity is in the hands of companies and governments that tap the power of women. It’s up to the leaders — who are at this point, a male majority — to put words into action.

Rick Goings – Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Tupperware Brands Corporation

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