How Can Women Achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals?
In 2015, the United Nations established 17 goals to achieve a better and more sustainable world for all by 2030. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) “address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.”
Four change agents joined Jo Confino, Executive Editor of Impact at HuffPost, to discuss this timely topic in The FQ Lounge, Home of Equality @ Davos: Dr. Márcia Balisciano, Head of Sustainability at RELX Group, Amanda Ellis, Former New Zealand Ambassador, United Nations in Geneva & Director Global Partnerships at ASU Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability; Alyse Nelson, President and CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership, and Dr. Sanjeev Khagram, Dean of Thunderbird School of Global Management.
Watch the full conversation here and read a few key takeaways below:
Women don’t just need to be empowered; they need justice.
Jo began the conversation with a reflection: earlier in the day, he was interviewing Kumi Naidoo, the Secretary-General of Amnesty International, who noted that there is a lot of talk at WEF about empowering women in the developing world. But Kumi reflected that most women know how to empower themselves. What women really need is justice.
Amanda built on this idea by describing the birth of WE Empower, a global business competition for women entrepreneurs who are advancing the UN SDGs: “Women are so often seen as victims, and there is a need for justice.” She then asked the audience to guess what percentage of countries still have laws that discriminate against women and prevent them from being economically active. The answer: more than 90% of countries.
Women solve complex challenges differently — and we need this creative and collaborative approach to meet the SDGs.
Alyse explained that, according to a World Bank study, it will take trillions of dollars to solve the challenges laid out in the SDGs. She noted, “I think we could pour trillions into these goals without them coming to fruition. This isn’t about the usual players; It’s not just about government or international institutions. It’s also about individuals and entrepreneurs.” She continued, “Women entrepreneurs tend to step up to ‘right a wrong.’ They see a problem, and they want to fix it. They think outside-the-box and think creatively. This is the kind of thinking we need to solve these seemingly intractable problems.”
A focus on community differentiates female entrepreneurs.
Jo noted that research suggests that, “when you invest in women entrepreneurs, they invest in back in their communities — and men don’t.” Sanjeev described how his mother, an Indian refugee, helped her family survive and became an entrepreneur: “My mother has dogged persistence: not just for herself, but for her children, her grandchildren, and her whole community.”
To drive effective change, we need to capture good data.
Sanjeev explained that three cross-cutting issues impact the potential of all SDGs coming to fruition: “One is data. There’s a woeful lack of data, particularly on gender around the world. If we don’t have the knowledge of what’s happening, how can we make a difference? Second, climate change. We know that climate change will affect every single one of the SDGs. And third, women.” Sanjeev explained that, if we want to achieve this aspirational framework, it is essential to partner with, appreciate, and validate women entrepreneurs.
Marcia added: “We need data to understand what our benchmark is and where we need to go from there.” The RELX Group SDG Resource Centre fills this gap by providing researchers with public access to critical content about the SDGs.
The biggest barrier to women isn’t money — it’s a lack of precedent.
Alyse explained that, if you asked women about the biggest entrepreneurial barrier: “They probably say money — but it’s not money.” She added that women don’t have examples to aspire to. “But when they begin to see themselves in other women leaders, they begin to self-identify as a leader. That’s the power of the network.”
According to research from McKinsey, as much as $28 trillion could be left on the table each year because women don’t play an identical role in labor markets to that of men. But if women continue to empower other women — to help to solve that justice problem together — they will bring about transformative change.
If you are a female entrepreneur, join the network and register with WE Empower today.
For more highlights from The FQ Lounge @ Davos, check out:
How LinkedIn Data Can Make Our Workplaces Better
Why Diversity Should Be a Business Goal
Top Female Tech Leaders on Creating More Inclusive Cultures