Women Will Transform Global Business

December 19, 2014

To help women—who comprise a startling 70 percent of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty around the world—lead stable, successful lives is everybody’s business. “Business” as in the industries, firms, and transactions that sustain and stimulate the economy. The endeavors that build wealth and sustain healthy, prosperous communities. And “business” as in “mind your own business”—what we care about on a personal level.  

In the realm of global business, numbers count. Companies with women in executive leadership are proven to be more successful than companies with C-suites composed solely of men. Yet, only 4.6 percent of US Fortune 500 companies are led by women CEOs, according to the Center for American Progress.

To sum it up:  global business leaders must be led by the potential, promise, and proven record of the success of women business leaders and entrepreneurs. Women are creative, fiscally responsible, and resilient. We must empower them to thrive as global business and technology leaders in established international firms and through their unique start-ups in every, and any, industry fueling their interests, passions, and economic goals. Women, men, their families and communities around the world have nothing to lose and everything to gain when women thrive.

If leadership means business as usual, we will not progress. It’s time to let go of old models and embrace new options. Collaboration, bringing people together across fields of expertise and from diverse perspectives. Creating new work cultures that recognize the reality of women’s —and men’s—lives. Flexible schedules and work environments that promote and support both productive professional and family lives; mentoring opportunities enabling young women to develop the skills that will support their companies’ business objectives in creative, profitable ways; and opportunities to help women grow with the companies for which they work. Why should a woman who has devoted her talents and energies to a business she believes in be forced to seek employment outside of that firm to be invited into the C-Suite? How do we transform business as usual?

We can’t answer that question. Not yet, or not completely. But we know we must address it. At PwC, we believe that inspiring and mentoring the next generation of women business leaders is critical. Toward those goals, we were extremely proud to sponsor WED: Women’s Global Entrepreneurship Day, launched in November at the United Nations (144 countries and 22 major universities participated in WED). It was an astonishing day: the leaders of developing countries, executives from the world’s most influential high-tech firms, and high profile media personalities embracing a unified and powerful message: women can and will change the face of global business.

We realize that a single day cannot change the global economy. But we know that numbers count. And one day is more than none.

This is why we have collaborated since 2009 with Points of Light on the Civic Accelerator Program. At WED, PwC announced our commitment to guaranty that going forward no less than 50 percent of Civic Accelerator funds will be awarded to women-owned start-ups. Civic Accelerator funding supports social ventures dedicated to creating accessible pathways to economic opportunity in communities across the US.  The funds are provided for activities designed to engage communities, enhance early start-up initiatives, and combine the most promising options to join business and civic goals. It’s a program of practical business education and real dollar investment in communities. In other words…the business of life.

When women and their families from Saudi Arabia to South Dakota thrive we will have achieved the greatest global business success. Profitable communities. Profitable businesses. WED was a great start. Now it’s up to companies with global impact to lead the way.