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Lucy Mantella

Senior Corporate Client Manager
Charities Aid Foundation

T: +44 (0) 3000 123 207
E: corporate@cafonline.org

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MY THOUGHTS ON HUMANISING THE SDGS AND THE POWER OF EQUALITY

Also known as: Only she who attempts the absurd can achieve the impossible

On 3 October 2018, I was on a busy Northern line tube, having managed to hustle myself a seat (a rare thing) and I was in a zone reading my notes for the speech I was due to make the following morning, for our event: ‘Humanising the SDG’s: the Power of Gender Equality’.  This was an event that I had dreamt up many months before and had slowly grown into something way beyond my wildest dreams and became one of my biggest and most proud achievements of 2018.

While familiarising myself with my speech and running through my ‘dramatic pauses’ in my head, I must have been fairly animated to those sat around me… So much so, as I went to get up at my station, the woman I’d sat next to, who had clearly been watching me and reading my notes over my shoulder,  stopped me and grabbed my arm to say ‘you’re going to be brilliant; it’s an event about Gender Equality, what’s not great about that?!’

Even though I have no idea who this woman was, I really want to thank her.  That night she made me take a step back and realise that  - no matter what - this was an amazing thing that we were doing and this important topic resonates with so many of us.

What's the aim of the event?

By hosting this event we were keen to create a space to inspire our clients and partners to think about ‘how collectively we can make the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) matter to everyone?’. Through focusing on SDG 5 – gender equality, we brought together an expert group of panellists to hear their unique perspectives on how the SDGs are being adopted within their worlds.

We were absolutely honoured to have an inspirational set of women to share their unbelievable range of expertise. Dr Shola Mos-ShogbamimuHelena MorrisseyJacqui HuntEmily Auckland and Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, I cannot thank you all enough for your contributions!

We of course acknowledge that to progress this agenda in an authentic and meaningful way men need to be included debate. Quite rightly, several of the panellists flagged that the panel should also have included men. In fact we did try, but we were unable to find a man who was able to join us on the day.  However an interesting point I did take away was that almost every woman we approached opened up their personal network in some way.

I was completely blown away and will ensure that I model this throughout the rest of my career.  After all, the women I encountered definitely stepped up in a way I could have never imagined.

So what were the key takeaways from the discussion?

The panellists had a diverse set of views and at the same time agreed that the status quo was not enough - the debate relating to gender equality needs reframing. We require collaboration and different sets of expertise in order to be more engaged with and valued by business and society. We hope that the audience left realising that the topics covered on the day were about actions and not words.

Helena Morrissey DBE shared insights into the importance of women in business from a leadership perspective.  She cited that there are many global studies that demonstrate a positive correlation between having more women in the workforce and a company’s results. In addition, she highlighted that demand in the investor market is changing and there’s greater demand for transparency from investors.

This is reflected by a Morgan Stanley report ‘Why it Pays to Invest in Gender Diversity’ which states: ‘calls for more female participation in the economy have grown louder... ensuring that more women are working and leading the workplace, is simply good business, especially for investors who not only care about the ethics, but also want returns. Research also demonstrates that gender diversity in the workplace can lead to increased productivity, greater innovation, better decision making and higher employee retention/satisfaction.

Furthermore, Avivah Wittenberg-Cox made the point that 50% of the population are women, controlling 60% of global spend and representing 60% of all university graduates. Both Avivah and Helena discussed the importance of female consumers in the market and asked whether the products and services businesses place into the market are designed effectively for this majority group.  A simple example is that women are 47% more likely to be seriously injured in a car crash because seat belts and airbags are designed by men.

Some further ‘food for thought’ that I’ve accumulated through my reading and podcast listening in recent months are:

  • It’s going to take us another 107 years to close the overall gender pay gap
  • If we had an equal society this would mean we had the potential to grow the British economy by a further £70bn
  • Only 9% of contributors on Wikipedia are female, with a further 90% being male, and 1%transgender/transsexual. Unsurprisingly, this means that only 9% of the content on Wikipedia is about women meaning that they are being potentially written out of history
  • 22% of AI professionals globally are female, meaning technology of the future is being developed without a diverse talent pool, which limits its innovation and capacity
  • Only 11% of participants in studies to find a cure for HIV are female despite women being over 50% of those infected with the disease
  • Women are 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed following a heart attack. Women’s symptoms for heart attacks are different to men’s yet the public health campaigns highlight the triggers for men
  • Google home is 70% more likely to recognise a male voice over a female voice.
  • Every time you search an impressive woman online, Google’s second suggested drop down is: xxxx’s Husband (try it!)
  • Half of the world’s agricultural work is performed by women.If they were provided the same access to resources as men they could increase their yields by 20-30%
  • Women in the UK have borne 86% of the burden of government austerity cuts since 2010.
 

Collecting data is an important part of the narrative around advancing gender equality.  It helps us to track progress, understand where there may be bias in our systems, develop appropriate products and services and build a business case to innovate and work in collaboration.

In May 2018, LGIM launched their ‘L&G Future World Gender in Leadership UK index Fund’ (also known as the Girl Fund).  This evidences the increasing popularity of ‘gender-smart’ or ‘gender lens’ investing. In November 2018 a Financial Times article reported that ‘funds that help women in business have hit $2.2bn.

Whilst some of the gender smart funds have come under fire in relation to overlooking other sustainable impacts, any funds, programmes and/or initiatives that improve women’s access to capital and their visibility in business have got to be a positive step in the right direction.  

Whilst quotas are not favoured by many and the effectiveness of a ‘women’s networks’ have been questioned, the broader gender pay gap reporting has been positively received. As a result, many CEOs and executive teams are having to reflect on what is happening within their workforces, present plans for improvements, think about how they can build a workforce for the future, as well as plan what this means for their products and services and their customers/investors.

Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu made the point that this is only the beginning and that we should now be calling for a better balance within the workplace and expand this type of reporting to report on both BAME and LGBTQ.

All the panellists agreed that gender reporting is creating the right conversations at the right level. Set alongside some of the achievements made with organisations such as the 30% club we are beginning to see the dial shift.

However, the 2018 Global Gender Gap Report from the World Economic Forum emphasises that, whilst we are on track to close the gender pay gap within the next 60 years within Western Europe, policy makers and other stakeholders can fast-forward this process and should take stronger actions in the years to come. There is a strong imperative to do so in terms of justice and greater social equality as well as the economic returns of a broader base of diverse human capital.

One of the largest challenges we currently face in making progress is volatility within the geo-political landscape. Many companies are too focused on short-term thinking instead of seeing the long-term benefits. In the discussion, Helena Morrissey DBE stated that if we are able to ‘invest for good’ we’re actually more likely to see better, more sustainable long-term returns and lower risk. There is currently an ascendency of thinking around the fact that sustainable competitive advantage is to do with managing business responsibly and actually short term wins are often incompatible with long-term gains.

Undoubtedly, all of the panellists agreed that equality is better for everybody. When it comes to gender equality and ensuring that we build a fair and equitable society, we’re not just talking about the rights of women and girls. We all have a responsibility to ensure that through civil society, governments and business we are building a world in which everyone can thrive.

Jacqui Hunt from Equality Now argued that ‘at the moment girls have a lot of obstacles in the way, to enable them to be able to thrive in the way they should be able to. All we want is for people to be the best they can be, to take advantages of opportunities, to reach their potential. Sometimes all they need is a helping hand there.’ 

Equality Now works to ensure that the law a) sets the standard which is meant to represent the values of a society and b) gives women and girls a tool with which to protect and promote their rights. They achieve this through campaigns which use the law and legal standards, including leveraging the SDGs to create change.

On the day, Jacqui shared some of the eye opening stories from Equality Now’s work on the ground. It is clear to see that there are obstacles both in developed and less developed countries. She emphasised the importance of philanthropy and how people’s generosity is crucial in helping to tackle the issues on a global stage to make the world a better place. She also echoed an earlier point in relation to the important role that data plays when it comes to impact. If people have the right data, right circumstances of what their looking to change, it is easier to identify a clear set of goals that are aligned to the SGDs .

The SDGs also provide business with the potential to create transformational change within business models as well as help turn business risk into potential business opportunity. Emily Auckland, stated that ‘the SDGs are an opportunity for us to work collectively to address the biggest threats to both business and people in future’. She also emphasised that, when looking to generate senior engagement within business, it’s essential that the moral imperative for action is addressed as well as being able to identify and articulate a value proposition.

Last year UKSSD launched ‘Measuring Up’ - the first report that tracks how the UK is performing against the SDG’s. It is positive to see that the UK is performing well on 24% of the targets. However when you drill down to the data on SDG5: Gender Equality it is worrying to see that there has been slow progress in this area and in some cases a risk of stagnation. Throughout the discussion the panel all agreed that women are central to addressing all of the SDGs. We do however all have a responsibility to ensure that gender equality and creating better balance within business is at the forefront of the agenda.   

Why are these conversations important to us?

We believe that philanthropy plays a critical role, alongside business and society to tackle economic injustice and social inequality. Through helping our clients develop strategies and programmes, we see the influence and impact that women-led initiatives can have and what value they add to the business. We are proud to support programmes like the Avon Foundation’s Shelter Programme  and ViiV Healthcare’s Positive Action’ programme. In addition, we see the value in collaboration and want to convene and encourage more conversations with our clients and partners so they can have bigger and bolder impact with their programmes.

We also believe that delivering meaningful philanthropic programmes is one part of building a larger commitment to building better gender equality all round. Civil society is a key agent of change and development and, through innovative partnerships and programmes, organisations can help to accelerate social change on a global level.

To celebrate International Women’s Day my colleague Rhodri Davies has recorded a podcast on ‘Women and Philanthropy’.  This explores famous female philanthropists past and present, the role that charitable work has played in the emancipation of women, and the ways in which philanthropy has been used as a tool to fight for women’s rights. Definitely worth an inspirational listen!

My final thoughts and Oscar’s speech

This event and the amazing network of women and men I’ve met along the way has been unbelievable. It has unlocked something in me that has made me feel stronger and the world feel more possible – by  drawing on the inspiration, enthusiasm and strength of other women we can all grow and believe in ourselves and each other more. Never let the little voice in your head let you not do something! Think big, think bold, think brave, whether it’s about your own career progression, supporting others or doing something different and a little bit maverick.

I will never forget Dr Shola asking if she could take the stage to Dancing Queen (the event was the day after Theresa May’s memorable entrance).  We thought she was joking, she absolutely wasn’t!  We all need a bit of Dr Shola in our lives everyday!

Gender equality is about judging a person based on their merit, and not viewing them as inferior or superior purely based on their gender or any other label that might possibly discriminate. We can no longer stand still or work around the periphery of the issue.

The world of big business needs to adapt to the changing needs of society which includes future workforce, customers and investors. The programmes we deliver and the initiatives we champion all need to create impact as well as factor in the importance of learning and ensuring what you’re doing is fit for purpose.

Finally I want to thank Klara Kozlov, our Head of Corporate Clients, for believing in me and encouraging me to open the event.  She let me run with my idea which started as a roundtable discussion and quickly grew into an event with over 100+ attendees that required us to hire a space as we kept outgrowing our original plans.

Thanks also to a former colleague who - when I doubted myself - told me to stop being stupid and reminded me that opportunities like this don’t come up often and that I needed to step into the space that was rightly mine, not to mention turning up on the morning of the event far too early to be there to support me (you know who you are!). And finally I’m grateful to every single one of my colleagues who supported in so many ways to help make the event happen – thank you, thank you, thank you! 

And a final final thank you to my colleague Laura Dosanjh who kindly gifted to me the title of the blog – definitely go and read about Robin Morgan (we all know who Albert Einstein is). 

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