As you’ve read in my past blog entries, I have long been a proponent of workplace equality. I encourage companies to voluntarily ensure the genders of management teams and boards of directors are representative of their customer base. Baroness Mary Goudie, a senior member of the British House of Lords, shares those same values. She is a global advocate for the rights of women and children, on the board of Vital Voices and the Chair of the Women Leaders’ Council to Fight Human Trafficking at the United Nations.
In my interview with the Baroness, find out why she feels so strongly about increasing the number of women in corporate boardrooms, what she’s doing to raise awareness for gender equality and women’s rights, and her advice on how others can support these efforts.
Q1: How did you get involved in promoting women’s rights and why do you feel so strongly about this issue?
Baroness: I have always been very passionate about the importance of promoting women’s rights, especially their economic and political rights. This is particularly important because women are 50% of the world’s population and have so much to contribute. I first started promoting women’s rights globally after working with strong, active female leaders in Northern Ireland, including Avila Kilmurray, Baroness May Blood, Mary Black, Ambassador Melanne Verveer and Ellen Bennett. This experience really highlighted the power women have and how important their involvement is in advocating for women’s rights.
Q2: You are a global advocate for women and this involves promoting gender equity through the G8 and G20. What do you think are the most important steps both the G8 and G20 can make to improve the lives of women and children around the globe?
Baroness: There are a number of key areas where the G8 and G20 can positively impact the lives of women and children around the world. Providing access to finance for women and providing education on finance for girls and boys is one of the most integral steps in improving lives. All children should have the right to an education and, globally, we need to ensure children can seek education without the fear of persecution.
I also feel very strongly that more needs to be done to combat the multi-billion dollar trade of human beings. This is also very closely linked to developing more robust campaigns to end child marriage worldwide. Finally, women need to have a voice at all levels of global decision-making, and at the center of this is ensuring women have a place at every table – especially at the peace table.
Q3: In 2010, you founded the 30% Club with Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management, with the aim of increasing the number of women on UK boards to 30% by 2015. Why did you feel this was a necessary campaign?
Baroness: The 30% Club is a group of Chairmen and organizations committed to bringing more women onto company boards because we believe it is good for the overall effectiveness of the boardroom and therefore good for business. This is a vital campaign because it is not a women’s issue, it is a business issue.
While we believe women have much to contribute in boardrooms and that they should be sitting at the table alongside men, the 30% Club believes mandated quotas are harmful to the ongoing gender debate. Through our campaign, we are promoting voluntary change amongst companies.
Q4: Why do you believe companies benefit from increasing the number of female executives in company boardrooms?
Baroness: There are many powerful arguments for having gender-varied boards. One reason is that companies with varied boards deter themselves from the danger of ‘groupthink.’ Having women on boards can also improve decision-making processes, ensure talent is functioning optimally, and help businesses redefine corporate social responsibilities (CSR) policies. Some CSR policies include projects associated with education, food security and human trafficking policies – issues that women are often more pro-active in pursuing.
Q5: You are on the board of the Vital Voices Global Partnership. How does Vital Voices work to empower women and what changes have you seen through your role?
Baroness: Vital Voices identifies, invests in and brings visibility to extraordinary women around the world by unleashing their leadership potential to transform lives and accelerate peace and prosperity in their communities. I have seen Vital Voices train women in business development and entrepreneurial management to expand their enterprises, provide for their families and create economic opportunities in their communities. Vital Voices is also at the forefront of international coalitions to combat human trafficking and all forms of violence against women and girls.
Q6: When all the efforts to achieve equal rights for women become a global success, what kind of world do you envision?
Baroness: I envisage a world that is strengthened by diversity, a world that is fair and has equal pay, where there is no child labor or child marriages, and where the GDP of communities would be doubled.
Q7: If readers would like to get involved in promoting a more equitable world, what do you recommend them doing?
Baroness: I encourage readers to get involved in campaigning, join an organization, lobby politicians, even post messages on Facebook and Twitter – social media is an important campaigning tool. Most importantly – I encourage everyone to speak up and promote equality!