The disproportionate toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on women and people of color is undeniable. In one year, women across major economies were 24% more likely to lose their jobs than men. In one month (December 2020), women accounted for every net reported job loss in the United States—with Black and Latina women bearing the overwhelming brunt of these losses. Global GDP could suffer $1 trillion in losses by 2030 if nothing is done to address the pandemic’s regressive effects on women’s employment alone. In addition, the past year has opened more eyes to the climate crisis, heightened inequality, and failures of governance in emergency response—all of which hit society’s most marginalized the hardest while elevating risk for business and governments alike.
CEOs must recognize that these are not sector-specific risks. Every business will be affected. Every business must be ready to respond. Leadership teams that reflect the diversity of our communities and our world are the ones best fit for the future—and best equipped to respond in ways that safeguard their business interests.
But a crisis of conformity still plagues C-suites and boardrooms around the world. Nearly 90% of Fortune 500 CEOs are white men, a staggering figure. Only one is a Black woman (though there will be a second when Thasunda Brown Duckett becomes CEO of TIAA on May 1). Globally, women occupy a mere one in five seats in the boardroom.
In my own experiences as candidate for President of Iceland, as cofounder and executive chairman of an investment firm, and as a mentor to female entrepreneurs, I regularly encounter the same problem: a lack of recognition that changing who is in charge is the best way to change how we tackle our biggest, collective challenges while simultaneously improving corporate performance.
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