The Times They Are a Changing: But are they really transforming the economy and women’s lives?

Iva Kaufman, a founding member of ASBC Working Group for Women and our guest blogger (left of picture), with Power Shift founder Linda Scott (middle of picture), and Naila Chowdhury, Women4Empowerment (on the right).

The answer to the question was a resounding YES at the Power Shift Forum for Women in the World Economy hosted by Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, the MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth, the Library of Congress and Professor Linda Scott of the DoubleXEconomy. The energy and optimism expressed by those attending the 4th Power Shift Forum resonates with the overall policy agenda and priorities put forth by the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) and with my own experience as a consultant to businesses and foundations on issues of gender, sustainability, and social impact.

New alliances New alliances and structures are being formed in the workplace and society at large to facilitate women’s leadership development, cross-sector alliances, research, exploration, and actions to advance women and the economy. This is reflected in ASBC’s successful policy oriented campaigns, which encourages its members and partners to promote statewide and national initiatives at the intersection of gender, social finance, environmental awareness, and the building of local economies.

Power Shift 2016 included famous keynotes, panel sessions, at which innovations and information were presented and discussed among the participants, as well as impressive debaters and fabulous social events.

The Power Shift Forum also calls upon women and men from a wide range of business backgrounds to ensure that leadership development, diversity, and gender equality are expanded and fully integrated into the workplace. The Forum’s focus at this latest conference was on Women and Leadership. It included a “Town Hall” that provided direct input into the United Nations High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, and the White House Council on Women and Girls’ (WHCOWG) upcoming Summit in Washington DC. As a member of the Working Group for Women of the ASBC, it was a privilege to hear Pamela Hamamoto, Permanent Representative of the USA to the UN, reinforce the importance of business leaders’ roles in promoting gender equality/SDG #5 (Sustainable Development Goals). Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President and Executive Director WHCOWG also endorsed our collective efforts to reform the current policies on paid sick and family leave in workplaces in the United States.

Two surveys, one result The results of the 2015 ASBC Working Group for Women Membership Survey allows us to answer affirmatively the fundamental question posed by Pat Heffernan in her March blog post for Women’s History Month: “How can we better harness attention, social change innovations, and sustainable economy principles to advance gender equality?“ The 2015 ASBC survey pointed to barriers, opportunities, and policy solutions reflected in Closing the Funding and Opportunity Gap for Women and Minority Owned Businesses. Among these is the need to increase access to capital for women, the human right to equal pay and gender equality at all levels in the workplace. Not coincidentally, the 2016 Power Shift survey also reinforced the need to “think through the obstacles that keep women from participating in high level workplace decision-making” and suggests a “clear path” to achieving these objectives.

Power Shift 2016 panel “Leading Around the Barriers”, showcasing pioneering initiatives creating new access to capital for women. On the panel, from the left: Sevi Simavi (moderator), Loretta McCarthy, Naila Chowdhury, Tricia Cuna Weaver.

This increasing understanding of a woman’s human right to education, full participation in the economy, and the assertion of their role as equal partners in financial and economic decision-making reflects a sea change in how leaders do business and work towards policy reform. The sessions at the Power Shift Forum on “Engendering Policy Change” put a gender lens on “neutral” decision making and the pursuit of equal pay and parental leave. Others sessions, such as “Leading around the Barriers” showcased pioneering initiatives that create new access to capital for women from investments in women-by-women and significant changes in credit offerings by major banks and intermediaries.

Two events, one gender parity agenda

Power Shift is an invitation-only gathering bringing together people with a demonstrated commitment to women’s empowerment.

The Power Shift Forum is an annual gathering focused on these issues and potential solutions. It brought together academics, business executives, journalists NGOs foundations, and government leaders to address issues of gender status and influence. The ASBC Sustainable Business Summit in September is an annual gathering of business women and men with high-level government officials focused on broad, triple-bottom line sustainability, which includes gender parity as a key component of the solution.

ASBC has been on the front lines of change for women in policy reform, from access to capital to paid family leave. These groups as well as many others are now aligned to achieve diversity and equality for women in the business world. I believe that together, the inclusive and participatory structures of ASBC and the Power Shift Forum will work steadily and consistently to change the face of policy and the global economy. With such enthusiastic representation from all sectors in agreement about the necessary direction, the times indeed will be a’changing.

Iva Kaufman is a founding member of ASBC’s Working Group for Women. Over the past three years she has collaborated with TheSocial Architects to advance the work of Professor Linda Scott, Power Shift, and the DoubleXEconomy. As Principal of Iva Kaufman Associates she consults to non-profits, foundations, and Triple Bottom Line businesses. Kaufman is a specialist in networking, and the design and implementation of programs and services that maximize success through social media and strategic communications, philanthropy, stakeholder engagement, and social impact investing.



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