International Day for Women and Girls in Science

Statement on the 4th International Day for Women and Girls in Science by Head of Finance Norway Idar Kreutzer, 11 February 2019.

Your Highness, Your Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have a big job to do. We must stop climate change and environmental degradation. We must at the same time create millions of new jobs, and create value, so that our kids and 9 billion people can live well within sustainable limits of one planet.

To be successful, we need to mobilize our resources. Technology and finance will be the key drivers, and we will not succeed without women and girls being an active and integrated part of that.

Let me start by sharing some key observations with you.

Science, technology and innovation are crucial drivers of socioeconomic development. According to the World Bank, only 1 out of 3 girls finish lower secondary school in low income countries.

The digital divide remains a gender divide. Women are less likely to be entrepreneurs. Only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are Women. Women represent less than a third of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce, and earn 16% of granted patents. Gender pay gap is still significant.

Good teachers are a condition to offer high quality technical education. Positive role models – as Princess Nisreen - are vital sources of inspiration. 97% of all new jobs will be created in the private sector. As a consequence, mobilizing business and finance is key to meet our objectives - and governments, civil society and business must work together to make it happen.

What we have done

Based on my own experience, it is meaningful to focus on three areas:

  1. Develop and explain the strong business case for gender equality.
  2. Understand business conduct not only as a defensive strategy to manage reputational risk, but as a strategic tool to tap into new talent pools and secure license to operate.
  3. Selective use of legal framework and smart regulation to set standards and offer positive incentives.

The business case for gender quality
The business case for gender quality is strong. McKinsey Global Institute estimates that gender parity could add $28 trillion to the global economy by 2025. When we develop the Vision 2050 report for WBCSD, we asked the question: «What would we do if we only had one thing we could do to secure that 9 billions people live well in 2050?» The clear answer was; Education for girls.

When we put together the Global Microfinance Consortium, we ended up only lending to women, because they created more jobs, created more value, and had significantly lower default rates.

A Norwegian based Nordic life insurer has chosen gender equality based on the SDGs as a strategic focus area for their asset management activities. It is being integrated in their financial analyses and included in reporting and investor dialogue.

Business Conduct

How business defines its role as corporate citizens is important in itself. From a business perspective, it is often seen as something that is related to reputation risk. That is a defensive perspective. In our context it can be much more than that.

Conduct can motivate recruitment and attract talent. A study conducted by Microsoft found that 72% of the girls polled said it was important to have jobs that directly helped the World. Research indicates that girls are more interested in STEM when they understand how they can use it to help others!

Conduct can also lead to investor action. The Council of Ethics in the Norwegian Pension Fund Global, last week concluded their advice to exclude a company from the investment universe based on the company’s business conduct, in particular the treatment of female workers.

Legal standards

Legal standards and regularity frameworks will always be controversial and met by skepticism in the business community. And often with good reason. But well thought through rules and regulation works and will be a necessary tool in driving change.

When it was first introduced, personally I was skeptical to the legally binding minimum request of 40 pro cent women on Norwegian boards. But I changed my mind. It works, and the sceptics were proven wrong. Women spend around 2,5 times more time on unpaid care and domestic work than men. The time devoted to unpaid care is negatively corelated with female labor force participation. Legislation that share paid maternity leave equally between mother and father represent a positive incentive to change this – and it works!

A strong business case for gender equality, that is understood and accepted by the business community, will lift female participation up on the management’s agenda, and into the board room. This has happened with climate risk, and it will happen with gender equality.

Together with an informal debate about business conduct this will both define the role of business, set standards and give positive incentives. UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights can be developed in this context.

The more business will do based on incentives and standards, the less we need to regulate through legislation. But some business will always be slow to introduce new standards. To prevent this becoming a competitive advantage, legislation should be used selectively and intelligently.

How to make it happen?

According to Einstein, the definitions of madness must be to do the same thing and hope for a different result. Change does not just happen. If you want a different result, you must do things differently. We have three effective tools, that should be actively used:

  • Set clear targets. The Equality Moonshot is a good example. 30% of investments and benefits from SDGs. Shoot for the moon – even if you miss, you end up among the stars. The SDGs are universally accepted objectives and, is a platform for action.
  • Use roadmap-processes to align interest and establish a platform for dialogue and define responsibilities. In Norway the use of roadmap processes, represented in my opinion a turning point in the green transformation.
  • Integrate objectives and actions into core business strategy.

A call to action

We still have a job to do. We must fight climate change, create millions of new jobs and create value, so that people can live well, within the sustainable limits of one planet. The United Nations 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals provide an unprecedented map of potential wealth creating opportunities.

To realize this potential woman must participate and benefit on equal terms as men. Business will play a defining role. Since business cannot succeed in societies that fail, the incentives are strong. Governments, civil society and business must work together, and the time has come for less talk and more action.

I am often asked if I am an optimist or a pessimist. In think I am a realist. I know we can make it, because in this case the smart thing to do, is the right thing to do.

Thank you for your attention.