When women are in charge, good things happen. These female leaders make sure of it in their work across humanitarian causes, social entrepreneurship and fashion.
Over 100 years ago, Save the Children’s founder declared that children have rights, which was an innovative concept for the time. We are particularly proud we’ve maintained that bold spirit not just in our programmatic work, but in our approach to strategic collaborations and partnerships as well. We work diligently with brands to ensure our collaborations are authentic, our campaigns are uniquely differentiated, and that together, we’re able to offer unique value to each other to meet our shared goals. Whether through driving consumer action, boosting brand awareness, increasing positive sentiment, or engaging employees – our team innovates with our partners to create breakthrough campaigns that benefit children – and grow business. If one is able to do both successfully, we’re confident the next generation of social leaders will be well equipped to make the biggest impact possible.
Firstly, companies must look internally and ask whether or not they have reached gender parity at a board and C-suite level. This level of leadership is critical for improving an organization's – and in this case, an industry’s – ability to innovate, collaborate, increase performance and make an impact. Secondly, the industries can – and should – reimagine and redefine how women and girls are portrayed. They are leaders in this respect, and the world is looking to them to lead in a positive way. Corporations should also ensure their supply chain is as sustainable, equitable and fair as it should be, and lastly, collaboration. All industries, inclusive of fashion and beauty, must work together across sectors and partners, to come up with groundbreaking and transformative partnerships to truly make a change for good.
I think women are over-mentored and under-sponsored, to be honest. Mentors are fine, of course, but young women also need sponsors who have their back, take a risk on them and put them up for promotion and challenging assignments. This is still not happening consistently.
We believe that education is key to breaking the cycle of poverty, be it a man or a woman. But when it comes to women, education empowers them to develop their voice and define their future socio-economically. Every dollar that a woman earns goes towards the development of her children, her family and her community. We have seen this time and again, be it the mamas in Kenya or the women farmers who grow ME to WE’s life-changing chocolate and coffee. When you educate and support a woman, you are paving the way for the development of a community – this is why empowering women is a key focus for us.
My work in Kenya started very early on as a teenager, but really blossomed into ME to WE Artisans in 2007 when I was on my honeymoon with my husband, Marc. I was gifted a stunning collection of beaded wedding collars by a large group of Maasai warriors. I had always marveled at the artistry of the mamas and had long aspired to help them find a broader market for their work, and now with my own treasured collection of beads, I revisited that plan and formed ME to WE Artisans. Today, that one small step of adapting their skill and product for a broader market has flourished into ME to WE, the social enterprise that provides socially conscious products and experiences that change lives, and allows the local consumer to do good while making everyday spending choices. We now have over 1800 women who work with us to create our ethically sourced products.
Women in leadership roles is still a new phenomena. As more women grow into leadership roles within organizations, it’s crucial to keep the trend going. Empowering women around the world with opportunities to become leaders is a cause dear to me and the fact that ME to WE has been built up by the incredible women I work with makes it even more deeply meaningful. At WE, female executives, department heads and directors make up 84% of our leadership, and it gives me such joy to have a team of empowered women who are empowering women around the world every single day.
Right now, CARE and Olivela are partnering to empower girls through education. The girls, whose lives have been completely upended by the Syrian war, live in communities and refugee camps in Jordan. All lost their country and their homes. Many lost family members. And all had their educations interrupted to help their families survive. Because of this partnership, and with the support of Olivela shoppers, they are back in school.
In the world’s poorest communities, girls and women bear the brunt of poverty. Fighting poverty in those communities requires focusing on girls and women to achieve equality. When families struggle to grow enough food to eat, or earn enough money to send all their kids to school, it’s the girls who are often the last to eat and first to be kept home from school. In these same communities, it’s the women who are frequently denied the right to own the land they’ve farmed their entire lives. And where girls and women are denied freedom to leave their homes or walk down a street, they struggle to earn a living, attend school or even visit a doctor.
These are adopted from a commencement address I gave not too long ago. The gist of it is, don’t be afraid of failure:
If you set out to make real change, don’t expect a hero’s journey of victory.
Change is only truly won through community.
Because public service and change-making will be defined not only by gains, but by setbacks, you must measure true change by generations.
Just as we must learn from our own times of challenge, so we must turn to those who have been on the margins of power to solve the problems of today. Look to those who have suffered and persevered for wisdom.