By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Women now hold many of jobs controlling the world’s largest economy – and they’re trying to fix it.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and trade czar Katherine Tai hold top jobs in U.S. President Joe Biden administration and many of his economic advisers also are women, as are nearly 48% of his confirmed cabinet-level officials.
This sea change may already be affecting economic policy – a new $2.3 trillion spending plan introduced by Biden last week includes $400 billion to fund the “care economy,” supporting home- and community-based jobs taking care of kids and seniors, work normally done by women that has mostly gone unacknowledged in years past.
The plan also has hundreds of billions more to fix racial and rural-urban inequalities that were created in part by past economic, trade and labor policies.
Yellen says the focus on “human infrastructure,” and the earlier $1.9 trillion rescue bill should result in significant improvements for women, whose share of the workforce had hit 40-year lows even before the crisis, and for everyone else as well.
“In the end, it might be that this bill makes 80 years of history: it begins to fix the structural problems that have plagued our economy for the past four decades,” she wrote on Twitter, adding, “This is just the start for us.”
Women leaders can bring fresh perspective to economic policy, experts say.
“When you’re different from the rest of the group, you often see things differently,” said Rebecca Henderson, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of “Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire.”
“You tend to be more open to different solutions,” she said, and that is what the situation demands. “We’re in a moment of enormous crisis. We need new ways of thinking.”
Over the past half-century, 57 women have been president or prime minister of their countries, but institutions that make economic decisions have largely been controlled by men until recently.
Outside the United States, there’s Christine Lagarde at the helm of the European Central Bank with its 2.4 trillion euro balance sheet, Kristalina Georgieva at the International Monetary Fund with its $1 trillion in lending power, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the World Trade Organization – all jobs held by men a decade ago.
Overall, there are women running finance ministries in 16 countries, and 14 of the world’s central banks, according to an annual report prepared by OMFIF, a think tank for central banking and economic policy.
The limited measures available suggest women have a better track record of managing complicated institutions through crisis.
“When women are involved, the evidence is very clear: communities are better, economies are better, the world is better,” Georgieva said in January, citing research compiled by the IMF and other institutions.
“Women make great leaders because we show empathy and speak up for the most vulnerable people. Women are decisive … and women can be more willing to find a compromise.”
A study by the American Psychological Association showed that U.S. states with female governors had fewer COVID-19 deaths than those led by men, and Harvard Business Review reported that women got significantly better ratings in 360-degree assessments of 60,000 leaders between March to June 2020.
Women account for less than 2% of CEOs at financial institutions and less than 20% of executive board members, but the institutions they do run show greater financial resilience and stability, IMF research shows.
Eric LeCompte, a UN adviser and executive director of a non-profit that advocates for debt relief, said he noticed a clear difference during a meeting with Yellen and the leaders of Christian and Jewish faith groups last month.
“I’ve been meeting with Treasury secretaries for 20 years, and their talking points have been entirely different,” he said. “In every area we discussed, Yellen put an emphasis on empathy, and the impact of policies on vulnerable communities.”
Her male predecessors had a “brass tacks” approach that focused first on “numbers not people” and never mentioned words like “vulnerable,” he said.
THE GLOBAL SHE-SESSION
The stakes are high.
The global recession related to the coronavirus pandemic is actually a “she-session,” many economists say, because of how hard it has hit women.
Women comprise 39% of the global workforce but account for 54% of overall job losses, McKinsey found in a recent study. In the United States, women accounted for more than half the 10 million jobs lost during the COVID-10 crisis https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-women-jobs/pushed-out-by-pandemic-women-struggle-to-regain-footing-in-u-s-job-market-idUSKBN2AW19Y, and over 2 million women have left the labor force altogether.
Bringing these women back to work could boost gross domestic product by 5% in the United States, 9% in Japan, 12% in the United Arab Emirates and an astounding 27% in India, the world’s largest democracy, the IMF estimates.
The rise of female leaders should lead to “a more inclusive – in the true sense of the word – response to the many, many challenges that are the legacy of COVID,” Carmen Reinhart, the World Bank’s chief economist, told Reuters.
Tai, the first woman of color to lead the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, has told her staff to think “outside the box”, embrace diversity and talk to communities long ignored.
Okonjo-Iweala, also the first African to head the World Trade Organization, which oversaw trade flows of nearly $19 trillion in 2019, said addressing the needs of women will mark an important step toward rebuilding deeply eroded faith in government and global institutions.
“The lesson for us is (to) make sure … that we don’t sink into business as usual,” said Okonjo-Iweala, who was also Nigeria’s first female finance minister. “It’s about people. It’s about inclusivity. It’s about decent work for ordinary people,” she told Reuters.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Additional reporting by Karin Strohecker; Editing by Heather Timmons and Andrea Ricci)
Canadian retail sales likely up 2.1% in August as restrictions lift
Canadian retail sales most likely rose 2.1% in August after dipping 0.6% in July as restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic were lifted, Statistics Canada said in a flash estimate on Thursday. The decrease in July, the third drop in the past four months, was smaller than the 1.2% month-over-month retreat forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll.
“With only a modest pullback in retail sales in July, a rebound in August, and surging spending on services, the economy will be driven by consumer spending growth in the third quarter,” Royce Mendes, senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, said in a note.
Retail trade in July fell in part due to lower sales at food and beverage stores, which coincided with the easing of pandemic restrictions for restaurants and bars.
Statscan said, 0.5% of retailers were closed at some point in July, compared with approximately 5.2% in June. It also noted the share of retail sales accounted for by electronic commerce shrank to 4.6% from 6.2% in June as shoppers returned to retail stores.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Paul Simao)
8 business leaders championing a nature-positive economy – World Economic Forum
We know, now more than ever, that our fate as a species is deeply connected with the fate of our natural environment. Nature loss has tangible business and economic impacts. Over half the world’s total GDP is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services and is therefore at risk. We now also know that protecting and restoring natural ecosystems is crucial in combatting climate change.
The COVID-19 crisis provides an unprecedented opportunity to reset humanity’s relationship with nature. The decisions that we make in the near future will shape the world for decades to come, and these decisions must be discussed during upcoming milestone international summits – including the UN General Assembly, the UN Food Systems Summit, and the climate and biodiversity COPs.
A recent CEO briefing document released by the World Economic Forum, WBCSD, Business for Nature and We Mean Business outlines why businesses need to act on nature and the steps they need to take. Many businesses are showing us what is already possible and are proving that safeguarding nature will lead to a thriving economy and resilient jobs.
To provide inspiration for the important year ahead, 8 members of the Champions for Nature community shared why they are working towards a nature-positive, net-zero and socially equitable future.
To build resilience ‘to future economic and environmental shocks’
Claudia Azevedo, CEO, Sonae
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark reminder of the vulnerability of our current economy and many of our livelihoods. A nature-positive economy will challenge businesses to shift towards jobs that are more resilient to future economic and environmental shocks.
At Sonae, we are highly committed to a long-term vision and recognise the need of integrating natural capital in the equation, so our nature-positive journey began many years ago, embedding it in Sonae’s business strategy.
Given the magnitude of current challenges, we encourage all companies to raise their ambitions around nature and climate and to join this effort. Nature loss will significantly impact all business in all countries. We have to be quick and effective in our actions.
To benefit biodiversity and business
Marco Bizzarri, President and CEO, Gucci
The twin crises of nature loss and climate change are interconnected and great benefits for business and society can be achieved if they are tackled together. As businesses, we must all respond to these crises as a matter of urgency and play our part to transition to a net-zero, nature-positive economy.
At Gucci, we have integrated climate solutions across our sustainability strategy to promote biodiversity conservation while we focus on emissions reduction. We have been carbon neutral in our direct operations and across our supply chain since 2018. Under our ‘Natural Climate Solutions Portfolio’, we are investing in regenerative agriculture, and protecting and restoring important ecosystems that mitigate climate change, which will provide lasting biodiversity and climate benefits for years to come.
To ‘restore critical water sources and ensure quality water for human consumption’
Bertrand Camus, CEO, Suez
Water is one of the key resources linking us to natural systems. One in four cities – representing over $4 trillion in economic activity – are already water stressed.
SUEZ is demonstrating how innovation and nature-based solutions can be used to restore critical water sources and ensure quality water for human consumption. A nature-positive economy is the only way to protect our water supplies and allow natural processes to continue to sustain life on earth as we know it.
At SUEZ, we aim to step up our role in protecting the environment and restoring our natural assets by taking action for the protection and rehabilitation of terrestrial, aquatic and marine biodiversity. To do this, the Group is accelerating its development of “100% sustainable” solutions characterised by their positive impact on the environment be it on air, water or soil.
To ‘improve farmer livelihoods and ensure a sustainable food system’
Liam Condon, President, Bayer Crop Science Division
At Bayer, we work with farmers every day to make agriculture a part of the solution to climate change and help lead us towards a nature-positive economy.
A great example is our Bayer Carbon Initiative. We promote climate-smart farming practices through a combination of product innovations, digital solutions and new outcome-based models that reward farmers who contribute to carbon sequestration. As more farmers embrace this novel approach, they realize the benefit through improved soil health for better harvests while contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
At the same time, we are committed to be carbon-neutral in our own operations by 2030 through use of renewable energy sources, efficiency measures and acquiring high-quality carbon credits for remaining emissions.
Since the agriculture landscape is highly diverse across the globe, we tailor-fit our innovations and efforts based on these varying dynamics with the end goal to improve farmer livelihoods and ensure a sustainable food system that can nourish the world.
To ‘protect the earth for future generations’
Guillaume Le Cunff, CEO, Nespresso US, Nestlé USA Inc.
Now is the time for urgency. We’re entering the decisive decade – it’s not just necessary to take actions to protect the earth for future generations, but also for the future of humanity.
I believe the private sector can be a powerful catalyst for change. Companies like Nespresso are in a privileged spot – we can accelerate transformative actions throughout our value chains, such as regenerative agriculture, eco-design, recycling and building a low-carbon nature-positive and inclusive economy. I have seen first-hand how coffee can be a force for good. Our ambition is to build on a 20-year legacy and accelerate our efforts. The clock is ticking.
To ‘tackle the climate crisis’ and add ‘business value of over $10 trillion’
Roberto Marques, Group CEO, Natura
The interconnections between nature and humanity must not be underestimated. The natural world is on the verge of its tipping point, and we must act now.
The business community has a huge role to play. Transitioning to a nature-positive economy by 2030 could provide both an effective way to tackle the climate crisis and an annual business value of over $10 trillion. As businesses, we must begin to think longer term and consider investments in nature which will pay off in the future.
Natura &Co has been operating in the Amazon for over 20 years, respecting the forest. We will continue our endeavour to work with our partners, overcoming competition in favour of collaboration, to help build an agreement for nature, designed to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030.
To provide ‘for livelihoods and development’ and restore ‘nature and landscapes’
Anderson Tanoto, Managing Director, RGE
Nature is the biggest ally in the fight against climate change. Natural climate solutions aim to utilise the power of nature to lessen climate change impacts, while halting the destruction of ecosystems.
At RGE, we embrace the production-protection model, where working forests ring-fence and buffer natural forests against encroachment and other illegal activities. This is a practical approach that not only provides for livelihoods and development but also restores nature and landscapes – allowing biodiversity and people to thrive for the long term.
To ‘protect nature while feeding the world’
Svein Tore Holsether, CEO, Yara
At Yara, we feel it is our responsibility to work with farmers to protect nature while feeding the world. The agricultural sector employs 65% of the world’s working poor and, in the Global South, forests are the source of livelihoods for over 1.6 billion people.
For us, the solution is quite literally in the soil. Done right, we can turn farmland back into nature and create natural carbon sinks. We need businesses to come together and take a stand, respecting the planetary boundaries.
For too long we have tried to control nature. Now we need to control ourselves.
Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.
To limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policy-makers, and civil society advance comprehensive near- and long-term climate actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The World Economic Forum’s Climate Initiative supports the scaling and acceleration of global climate action through public and private-sector collaboration. The Initiative works across several workstreams to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.
This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from various industries developing cost-effective solutions to transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with policy-makers and corporate partners to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of delivering a safer climate.
Contact us to get involved.
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