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CEOs Galvanizing against Gender Equality Backlash

Last week, leaders convened for a CEO roundtable at the UN to find ways to advance gender equality at a time when many efforts to boost diversity confront an ongoing backlash.
By Leon Kaye
Today, leaders will convene for a CEO roundtable at the UN to find ways to advance gender equality at a time when many efforts to boost diversity confront an ongoing backlash.

Last week, leaders convened for a CEO roundtable at the UN to find ways to advance gender equality at a time when many efforts to boost diversity confront an ongoing backlash.

Today, leaders from over 20 organizations will convene for a CEO roundtable at the United Nations to strategize on ways to advance gender equality at a time when many efforts to boost diversity and inclusion confront an ongoing backlash.

Among the leaders in attendance, who represent a diverse range of industries including the banking, mining, consumer packaged goods and hospitality sectors, is the UN Global Compact’s executive director, Lise Kingo.

“We can’t afford to take two steps back for every step forward,” Kingo said in an emailed statement to TriplePundit. “Gender equality is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes business sense. As we push for progress, there will be people who push back, shy away or fail to see the value of our action to advance equality. But we must keep moving forward.”

Elizabeth Broderick, Founder and Convener of Male Champions of Change (MCC), echoed that sentiment. “Bringing about change requires perseverance and courage. It also calls for change makers to engage with the range of responses, rather than dismissing the views of those who stand in the way of reform. When we work to understand the reason for resistance we are far more effective in our efforts to achieve significant and lasting change,” she said.

Evidence of a backlash has been witnessed worldwide, ranging from the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President in 2016 and Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil’s leader last fall. In the private sector, examples such as the infamous Google engineer’s screed against the tech giant’s inclusion efforts back in 2017 comprise only the beginning of such a list.

MCC is one organization working with the businesses and governments to ensure diversity and gender parity are part and parcel of their strategic initiatives. The group, which dates back to earlier this decade in Australia, says it partners with various leaders to take a close look at men’s role in reversing gender inequality within the workplace. MCC’s tactics include guaranteeing that companies publicly commit to advance gender equity; identify and deploy high-impact strategies that “disrupt the status quo” in order to foster meaningful change; and ensure continuous follow-up by holding member organizations accountable as they evaluate and share both their experiences and results.

Business organizations that complement the efforts of Global Compact and MCC include the CEO Act!on for Diversity and Inclusion (CEO Action), which launched in 2017. CEO Action boasts over 500 member CEOs and company presidents across 85 industries, as well as educational institutions and associations committed to change how the business community addresses diversity and inclusion. Its goals include the grooming of workplace cultures where all ideas and perspectives are welcomed and encouraged.

Companies that question the value of diversity need to look no further than the CEO of Aflac, Dan Amos. One of his most frequent sayings is that he already aware of what a 60-year-old white man thinks, so there is no reason to surround himself with other 60-year-old white males. Amos has been determined to build a diverse set of leaders at the table whenever critical decisions about the company’s strategy and future are being made. His leadership was among several reasons why Amos was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the CR Magazine Responsible CEO of the Year awards during last year’s 3BL Forum.

The Global Compact has its own response to any outcry over gender diversity efforts. “Such responses often perceive gender equality as a zero-sum game. These concerns are usually underlain by drivers such as lack of understanding, fear, change fatigue, cultural norms and industry norms that contribute to a view that efforts to achieve gender equality have ‘gone too far’.”

Image credit: UN Women/Flickr

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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