One of the good things about celebration days in the international calendar is that they give us the excuse to pause and think about important issues amidst the rush and clamour of busy schedules. Female leadership is still a big issue, particularly for those who subscribe to the belief that diversity in leadership enables better decision making – at a time when our business leaders are taking on so much responsibility for the wellbeing of society and the environment, alongside their usual stakeholders.
In the FTSE, where many international companies choose to list, The Hampton Alexander Review’s final report into female leadership was published on 24 February. Amidst the positive increase in the number of women overall in the last decade, it was noted that we need more women in executive positions to see sustained growth at the Board level. As we work towards gender parity and a more prosperous and sustainable world (SDG 5), International Women’s Day – this year themed #ChooseToChallenge – offers an opportunity to showcase our top picks of outstanding examples of female leadership, and how they stand out for challenging the status quo.
Here are ours – who would you add to the list?
Mayyada Abu Jaber, renowned female activist
Attendees at DiveIn’s festival in Amman in 2018 were treated to a speech by Mayyada Abu Jaber, the renowned female activist and inspirational leader who discussed her lifetime dedication to female empowerment. As a Brookings Institution Global Scholar for Leaders in Girls Education, Ms Abu Jaber conducted research to evaluate gender bias in the national Jordanian curriculum. Armed with evidence of inequality, she founded JoWomenomics as an independent non-profit organization to foster mindset change towards greater women’s economic participation. This in turn influences labour law policies and provides job opportunities to more than 600 marginalized female communities in Jordan. In recognition of her #ChoicetoChallenge, she has been recognized by the World Bank as an inspirational leader in the Middle East and North Africa, among many more accolades.
Marianne Tikannen and Elba Horta, co-founders of Puro.earth
With backgrounds in engineering and geosciences, these two outstanding female founders of the world’s first marketplace for selling ‘carbon removal’, are united in their ambitions for protecting the planet. Unafraid to challenge traditional methods, the two entrepreneurs forged new career paths in their pursuit of sustainability, as outlined in this Forbes article. As Ms Tikannen reportedly says, “It’s really important to move from words to action… we only have one climate.”
Rashmy Chatterjee, CEO of ISTARI
Rashmy Chatterjee has made a habit of #ChoosingtoChallenge. As the first female engineer to join the Indian Navy, she was commended by the President of India for her work. After two decades at IBM, she is now the CEO of Istari – the global cybersecurity platform established by Temasek to help clients increase their cyber resilience, earn digital trust and secure their business growth in this time of rapid digital transformation. As an advocate for women in technology, Mrs Chatterjee is a prime candidate for mention on this International Women’s Day.
Elizabeth Wangeci Chege, CEO and co-founder, WEB Limited Group
Frequent viewers of our blog and video content will know about Elizabeth Chege – a true pioneer in the sustainable construction sector in Kenya and green building throughout Africa. In our #AfricaNetZero interview series, Ms Chege speaks openly about her initial decisions to focus not on box-ticking and meeting building standards, but in putting sustainability first in the construction sector. Coining herself as a ‘sustainable engineer’, she was told by her professors that “we’re not sure anything like that exists” – a true example of a #ChoosetoChallenge female leader.
Charlotte Boaitey-Kwarteng, Barrister
In 2018, Charlotte Boaitey-Kwarteng was recognised by the prestigious GUBA awards for work in criminal and human rights law. Speaking of her Professional of the Year award win, Mrs Boaitey-Kwarteng told of her bold decision (having come to the UK from Ghana) to “run her own Chambers in the middle of Lincoln’s Inn surrounded by a sea of all-white Chambers.” She is an exemplar of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand
Ms Ardern responded to the Covid-19 crisis with the strictest regulations in the world, closing New Zealand’s borders with the response that she would “make no apologies” for doing so, while other countries remained open. Her choice to challenge the practice of other nations was made from listening to scientific expertise, and her accomplishment was in uniting her country through communication and strong leadership. She had the self-confidence to stand by her conviction to act quickly and maintain her stance. Her success? A record-breaking victory resulting in re-election.