Women leaders and sustainability

Yesterday I attended a seminar organised by the UCD School of Social Justice, featuring Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington, a NUI Galway academic who recently won an Equality Tribunal case against her University. Dr Sheehy-Skeffington took the case against NUIG after she was unfairly overlooked for promotion in favour of her male colleagues, some of whom were less qualified. In her talk, she drew attention to the persistent gender imbalance in academia, government and business.

In a roundabout sort of way, this brought to mind a recent article in Business Strategy and the Environment on female corporate leaders and sustainability. I’ve always had a sneaking feminist suspicion that we females might be more attuned to matters ecological and social (I mean they don’t call it Father Nature!) and this paper by Glass et al puts my bias to the test. The authors hypothesise that firms with female CEOs and female Board members will have greater “environmental strengths”, and use Fortune 500 data from a 10 year period to test their theory.

The interesting thing that comes out is that there is no overall difference between the “environmental strengths” of firms with male and female CEOs and/or board members. However, Glass et al did find that environmental strengths were enhanced when female board members are “interlinked” i.e. they are members of the boards of other firms too, and when male CEO are supported by a gender diverse board.

So although the impacts may be subtle, female board members in particular can make a difference to an organisation’s environmental policy. Now all we need is more of them! Here’s the article link, and you can read about Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington’s case in the link below that:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/bse.1879/abstract?campaign=wolearlyview

http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/micheline-sheehy-skeffington-i-m-from-a-family-of-feminists-i-took-this-case-to-honour-them-1.2027451

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