The Need of Women Leaders in Sustainability

The passion and energy in the room was palpable, the venue was YES BANK’s corporate office in Mumbai and the date very special – 8th of March i.e. International Women’s Day.  The event was Treeni’s Sustainability for Breakfast (S4B 6.0). It was the first time in India that an event focused on women in Sustainability and Climate change.

It’s 2018: Women breaking the mold in a male-dominated world still surprise us!  Gender disparity still exists and a wide variety of complex social and cultural factors are responsible for it. A worrisome statistic that the World Economic Forums Global Gender Gap report 2017 brought out was – Economic gender gap remains and at the current rate of change, closing the gender gap will now take 217 years. This report highlights that “women represent fewer than 50% of leaders in every industry analyzed – and in some fields, such as energy and mining or manufacturing, the representation of women is far lower, with women holding fewer than 20% of leadership positions. The rate of progress for women has been slow: over the past decade, the proportion of female leaders has increased by an average of just over 2% across the 12 industries studied.”

While conceptualizing the event, our research showed that – only a handful of the top companies in India have an organized sustainability function headed by CSOs, out of which very few CSOs are female. And for Indian core manufacturing companies  –- CSO is a position with EHS and sustainability rolled into one with hardly any ladies heading them!! The saving grace most Indian companies have a CSR function led by women.

Interestingly one participant pointed out: “Is it because Sustainability is considered a fringe function by organizations that we see more women in this area?”

This is a party true. Yes, unfortunately, sustainability is a fringe function, and the fact is we do not see many women leaders here but many women especially young consultants are active in this space.  We should keep in mind the difference in CSR and core sustainability. Since traditionally social work has been a women’s area, CSR function is often headed by women, however in sustainability while we see a lot of women the CSOs are still predominantly men. This corroborates with the facts outlined in the World Economic Forum report in Gender Gap 2017.

Women leadership in sustainability (encompassing CSR, Corp Sustainability, and EHS) is the need of the hour, and the power of the feminine perspective is the most formidable weapon that the world can mobilize, to solve the greatest challenges of our generation, and build a sustainable future.

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