Big global agreements—from the Sustainable Development Goals to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change—have outlined important targets to put people and our planet on a path to a healthy, sustainable future.
What’s special about them, in part, is that they build on progress made and lessons learned along the way to achieve a shared vision of a just, equitable and healthy world. Most importantly, they have set out goals that the world can rally around—and achieve—with the right action.
As the 61st Commission on the Status of Women meets in New York, now is the time to remember not only the role women already play in achieving healthy families and communities around the world, but also the role women must have if we are to achieve the just world that we all imagine.
Why Women Leaders Are So Crucial
In the last 25 years, women have joined the labor force at unprecedented rates. They currently make up 40% of the global labor force, which has catalyzed a tremendous ripple effect.
Data shows that when women and girls earn an income, 90% is reinvested into their families. A girl with a few years of formal education and access to employment is more likely to marry later, survive childbirth and send her children to school. It’s no coincidence that increased female participation in the global workforce has led to increased child survival rates, increased global education rates and more.
But while having women participate in the workforce is vital, participation alone isn’t enough.
Women leaders are critical—and urgently needed. According to UN Women, the representation of women in both private and public sector leadership remains at unacceptably low levels. Only 18% of appointed cabinet ministers are women. Less than 4% of CEOs in the world’s largest corporations are women. Changing these figures for the long haul will require a deliberate choice to equip women to lead, at all levels, in society.
How Johnson & Johnson Is Helping to Cultivate the Next Generation of Women Leaders
In 1886, 14 employees started Johnson & Johnson. Eight of them were women, brought on by James Wood Johnson. Today, as our company has grown, the commitment to hiring and empowering women leaders remains steadfast. We are continuing to empower and diversify our own workforce, and develop partnerships to help mentor women around the world to ensure that more women will be able to not only participate in the workforce, but to lead in it as well.
By taking responsibility and actively choosing to support women leaders, we create opportunities to use humanity’s full strength to achieve our vision of a healthy, prosperous world for all.
Developing women leaders must start from a young age. Last year, Johnson & Johnson announced WiSTEM2D, a global partnership designed to accelerate women’s and girls’ participation and advancement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as manufacturing and design. WiSTEM2D reaches women and girls at school and through each level of their career, strengthening the resolve of girls and women to take on and lead in STEM careers.
And through our work with Vital Voices, we are helping to advance women’s leadership with targeted, individually tailored support for 100 women leaders from around the world as they transform lives and create sustainable, lasting change in their communities.
Last year, J&J worked with two women from India. ElsaMarie D’Silva left her full-time job in the airline industry to set up a non-profit to track and map reports of sexual abuse and harassment. Because of her leadership, SAFECITY has now launched in four countries, allowing women to learn exactly where in their communities they might be at risk of harassment or violence.
The other woman, Kalyani Gongi, helped transition her struggling family farm into Ancient Living, an organic cosmetic and bath products company that uses ingredients raised on the farm, and employs local workers. Both of these women are incredibly smart, entrepreneurial and passionate about their work—the future of the modern workforce.
Johnson & Johnson and Vital Voices are also working with adolescent mothers in Panama, providing vocational training and resources that enhance leadership skills to help in generating an income. This particular partnership has made it possible for adolescent mothers to attain vocational training, and attend accounting, IT and English classes. In December 2016, ten young women graduated from both the vocational and high school courses in a moving and inspiring ceremony.
As the saying goes, women hold up half the sky. By taking responsibility and actively choosing to support women leaders, we create opportunities to use humanity’s full strength to achieve our vision of a healthy, prosperous world for all.
But all of us—men and women alike—must take specific and concrete actions to mentor young women leaders as they seek to become change makers in their communities and for our world.
Eleanor Roosevelt put it best. “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words,” she said. “It is expressed in the choices one makes … and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”