As an upcoming YGL participant at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2011 (aka “Summer Davos”) of the World Economic Forum in Dalian, China (14 – 16 September 2011), I was asked to submit an opinion piece on “Mastering quality growth” for discussion and publication at the summit. I am posting the article to my blog so that you may send me questions that you would like to have addressed by the WEF.
I will select several questions to incorporate in two sessions I am participating in: “New Perspectives on Growth” on Wednesday, Sept. 14, and “Women Entrepreneurs – How are women changing entrepreneurship and driving growth?” on Friday, Sept. 16.
Ready, Willing, and Waiting for an
Invitation to the Boardroom
A survey conducted last year by a prominent U.S.-based nonprofit examined the top 200 companies on the Fortune Global 500. It found dozens of giant corporations that had no women directors of any kind. None. Japanese companies took the dubious honor of having 19 companies big enough to be ranked among the world’s top 200 but not open enough to find room for a single woman in their boardrooms. Some of Japan’s most internationally active firms were on the list: Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Panasonic, Canon, and Toshiba had not a single female director among them. The final tally was 265 board seats. Total female representation: 0.
In Japan’s case, a Goldman Sachs study concluded that if the labor force included the same percentage of women as men, that change alone would add 8 million new jobs and boost GDP by 15 percent. In other words, this massive but dismally performing economy could grow by more than the entire GDP of Canada and Israel combined if only it was willing to give women a better chance to work. I have seen time and again how bright, motivated women workers not only equal their male counterparts but often outperform them by a wide margin. Foreign companies have known this for years. In a phenomenon known as “gender arbitrage,” they compete to hire these legions of overachieving women and give them good jobs and salaries. They certainly don’t do that to win CSR awards; they do it because it helps their bottom lines. Who loses? The domestic firms that put tradition ahead of profitability and bigotry ahead of growth.
This is not a Japan problem; it’s a global problem. Increasing women in the workplace, and attracting and promoting capable women is a sign of efficiency. It makes sense for business. How many nations today can say they don’t need to increase GDP growth, especially if the solution is completely domestic and inexpensive?
William H. Saito
The Forum of Young Global Leaders is a unique, multistakeholder community of exceptional young leaders who share a commitment to shaping the global future. Each year the World Economic Forum identifies 200-300 extraordinary individuals, drawn from every region of the world. Together, they form a powerful international community that can dramatically impact the global future.