The Global Compact Network Portugal and the National Target for Gender Equality – Leader Magazine

It is indisputable that Gender Equality is a matter of Human Rights that cannot (as happened for centuries) be dependent on what is considered “human being”. Humanity is only one, inhabiting a Planet inhabited by other species, in an interdependence that we are only just beginning to discover.

In the universe of organizations – business or others – the extinction of paradigms inherited from a past in which physical strength was a dominant feature in the labor market. In this past, the survival of a community was also dependent on the number and availability of fertile women, while men were expendable for military functions.

I will not go on to describe the ancient world here, even though this analysis has been carried out by authorities in the field.

The world of organizations today is based on projects. Now, when one intends to put into operation a group of people and means for a certain objective, it is essential to assign the service of “leadership”, with the corresponding decision-making capacity, on aspects of the functioning of the people and tasks of the group.

Practice (essentially since World War II) has shown that leadership skills are not plentiful and that this is often the most difficult resource to obtain for ensuring a project’s success.

The answers were diverse. University education was the most obvious and, during the 50s and 60s, higher education was considered sufficient as the basis for leadership skills, transmitted mainly through a “culture of campus” that separated the young student from the common mass (in fact, a process that already came from the family to which he belonged) and made him responsible as part of a ruling elite.

With the extraordinary demand for senior technical staff generated by the growth of the 60s, the Higher Schools had to open up to increasing student waves and the Universities changed their nature. They went from forming elites to teaching more and more technically and less about relational skills. This process was even called “the democratization of higher education”.

Graduates who had not obtained leadership standards within their families entered the labor market and it was up to the Companies to carry out a major internal structuring effort (O&M – Organization and Methods, Quality) to reduce the decision-making margin, while Behavioral Training flourished . It was like that in the 70s and 80s.

The unintended consequence of this process, which aimed to make up for the lack of leadership skills with abundant middle managers well framed in a “well-oiled management machine” (note the mechanical analogies that were so abundant at the time) was the attention focused on procedures, growth from the cost of management, the slowness and bureaucratic weight in decisions, the inevitable distance that the pyramidal organizational charts implied between clients and top management. The main victim was adaptability and innovation.

But as life goes on, corporate colossi has fallen from agile, young, highly reactive and results-focused organizations. We’ve gone from the IBM era to the Microsoft era.

This entire renewal of organizational doctrines and practices resolved part of the leadership skills crisis. But the needs continued to grow, not least because the “bosses” stopped achieving the success of the past. Relational skills started to be valued in recruitments, along with extra-school experiences in which individuals could have acquired knowledge that was not obviously useful for organizations until then. Hobbies, participation in collective projects, social involvement, came to be considered as creators of leadership skills that the organization could use.

But a culture strongly rooted in centuries (in men and women, in fathers and mothers) has not been overthrown, in which women are seen as little suited to leadership and even less so to live with risk and uncertainty in decisions.

Nowadays, despite all the campaigns and new mentalities among young people, statistics show that female participation in leadership is still undervalued. It is a bit as if a woman in leadership roles is always “on the go”, always having to demonstrate that she is capable, always seeing her actions judged with a level of demand higher than normal.

Of course, this has consequences for women themselves who, knowing what awaits them, avoid decision-making roles while increasing their own executive responsibilities. Thus, we have a high number of women to “do” but a much lower percentage to “decide”.

In addition to the violation of Human Rights, as mentioned above, it brings an even greater deficit of leadership skills, because, of those that exist in women, a significant part is not presented or is not considered.

There are also necessary stimulus actions that break the vicious circle and replace it with a virtuous circle in which the so precious leadership skills can be placed at the service of organizations without regard to gender paradigms, or sexual preference, or any other species. Therefore, Gender Equality must be treated as a component of Diversity and Inclusion and, without a doubt, as a condition for Competitiveness.

For this reason, a network of business organizations such as Global Compact Network Portugal proposed the National Target of 40% of women in Top and First Line Management Positions. Without falling into ethical utilitarianism, but with the pragmatism of recognizing that what is good for human dignity and sustainable development will also be good for business.

If we still don’t see this, it’s more due to management shortsightedness than to misadjustment of goals. It was not without reason that Agenda 2030 included this issue in SDG 5. The world we want in the future will be built by the most powerful tool that humanity has invented – the Organization. With an adequate purpose in finding and providing solutions to the problems we face, the Organization of the future will be successful (and therefore profitable for its entire ecosystem) if it aligns its operations with the Great Needs – eradicating poverty and hunger, provide health and education to all, eliminate discrimination, generate livelihoods in a harmonious way with the Planet and with all the Life that inhabits it, so that Happiness is possible for every Human Being.

For Mario Parra da Silva, President of Global Compact Network Portugal

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