The advocacy for women recognition and involvement in development transformation is not new. Born in 1860, activist Charlotte Perkins Gilman was one of the women who championed women’s rights at a time when the gender equality concept was not yet coined.
Gilman was vocal against societal demands on ‘dutiful housewives’ and championed for women to be liberated from compulsory domesticity. Here at home, Mekatili wa Menza, an independence activist, was on the frontline in the battle to liberate her Giriama people against colonial rule in 1912-1915.
Such transformative efforts inspired many people across the globe to believe in women empowerment, setting the foundation for future campaigns for gender rights.
Major strides have been made and much more is in the pipeline. Data from “Fortune Report” indicates that, as of last year, 41 of 500 CEOs in the Fortune companies were women, up from 12 in 2011. Avance Media Africa’s 2021 Top 100 Women CEOs in Africa list—of women inspiring the next generation of leaders, which was released early this month—had 10 Kenya women CEOs, including me, for our role in driving sustainable companies.
Yet despite these gains showing significant progress, the aspect of sustainability still calls for attention. One thing is clear though: Sustainability is key to more development and women have a role to play. And some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set a strong foundation to attaining this.
First, the awareness on the SDGs and what they mean is critical. In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) introduced the concept of sustainable development through the Brundtland Report. Defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, the United Nations has incorporated this in the 17 SDGs.
Four, SDGs are at the core of ensuring that women take the centre stage of business sustainability. First, the SDG on gender equality calls for urgent attention for women seeking to drive sustainability.
So far, we have seen the struggle around gender equality. Despite a progressive Constitution that promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment, that remains a key issue of concern as many women are left out of decision-making platforms. Women need platforms that champion for advocacy while lifting others and giving them a sense of development.
The partnerships SDG comes in as another after establishing such platforms. The adage “No man is an island” has become more relevant today. According to the UN, partnerships offer a better platform of accomplishing common goals compared to working alone. For women in business, this tenet plays a critical role in sustainability in a manner that one is able to create a better network, have a pool of ideas and, where necessary, pool more resources for a common cause.
Women, therefore, have an opportunity to drive sustainability through partnerships through collaborating with other companies on like-minded initiatives.
Thirdly, innovation continues to play a key role in emerging affairs and what the future holds. We have seen the power of innovation and what the future holds for companies. A McKinsey report on growth and innovation says 84 per cent of business leaders say their future success is dependent on innovation.
Further, the growing demand for innovation in our organisations shows it is a critical element in driving sustainability. The question that begs is how to go about it. As such, the aspect of nurturing an innovation culture is a good way to involve more women.
Last but not the least, increasing climate action in organisations is a critical element in driving sustainability.
During the COP26 meeting, I interacted with several business leaders from across the world. Climate change presents a viable business opportunity for hundreds of years to come. By championing these efforts, businesses are able to care for the world and also for themselves.
More awareness is required on sustainability, particularly now, after commemorating the International Women’s Day and celebrating women’s feats across the world.
Mrs Miano is the managing director and CEO of KenGen PLC. md&[email protected] @rebecca_miano