By Liz Zeidler, CEO Centre for Thriving Places
With every new day it becomes clearer that we are moving ever closer to the collapse of the many social and planetary systems on which we depend because our economy fails to either value or nurture them. Today, on International Women’s Day (IWD), we’re shining a light on the remarkable people determined to avert catastrophe. We’re asking why so many are women, and how we can help them reach the tipping point of change before it’s too late.
When we published the recent paper on ‘The Shared Ingredients for a Wellbeing Economy’, a number of commentators highlighted that almost all the contributors and creators of the new economy models discussed were women (*see list below). From approaches such as Doughnut Economics, Thriving Places Index and the OECD’s Better Life Index, to the driving forces behind the work of Carnegie UK, NEF, CLES, Positive Money, Coops UK, Young Foundation and Centre for Thriving Places, to the political leadership that has put the wellbeing of current and future generations at the heart of Wales’ and Scotland’s devolved governments – it is women at the helm in every case. They are, between them, producing a very different economic menu ready to feed us and our planet into the future.
We are delighted that many of these pioneering women have agreed to write thought-pieces for the CTP blog in the coming months, but as a prelude to those today, on IWD 2023, we wanted to honour our fellow female pioneers and look at what such leadership can teach us at this pivotal moment for humanity.
There is a risk, when talking about ‘female leadership’ that it slips into gender stereotypes about ‘soft’ skills, empathy and discussion versus ‘hardline tactics’, aggression and competition. However, what is evident in the overwhelming number of women at the forefront of the ‘wellbeing economy’ movement, is that they are often motivated by a shared vision that is long term in its thinking, inclusive in its approach and in balance with the rest of nature. These are consistent and powerful themes through their work and the ways in which they and their organisations are using their power and influence to challenge the status quo and question the very principles on which our economy and society are shaped.
Asking powerful and system-shifting questions lies at the heart of this movement. The Thriving Places Index for example, of which I am proud to be a co-creator, asks three deceptively simple, but system-changing questions of every investment, every policy, every decision we make: Are we growing the conditions for us to thrive. Are we doing that equitably so everyone can thrive? And are we doing it sustainably so future generations can also thrive?
Doughnut Economics asks many similarly powerful questions including: How do we live within not beyond the limits of our planet? Is our economy regenerative rather than consumptive of our shared resources? How do we nurture our diverse skills and strengths for the benefit of all?
Legislation like the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act in Wales puts the responsibility on all leaders and all sectors to consider the impact of any action on the wellbeing of people, including those yet to be born.
These are radically different ways of doing things – from politics to business, from planning to procurement, from education to healthcare. If these (mostly women) leaders who are challenging the status quo in this way were given centre stage, and these ideas implemented at scale, how quickly could we mitigate the worst trajectory of climate catastrophe? How deeply could we reverse the spiralling levels of inequality blighting our world? How fundamentally could we see local economies transformed into engines of our capacity to thrive?
The answer is much faster than you’d expect. From local to national governments and from global bodies to hyper local initiatives, change is happening and in many cases women are in the driving seat of that change. But the battle for a better economy is not yet won. Not only do we need to accelerate the uptake of this approach, we need to better support today’s leaders and nurture tomorrows.
In the past 12 months, some of the leading lights rethinking economics have stepped down, both high profile political ones such as Jacinda Adhern in New Zealand and Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, but also the powerhouses less visible in the media, such as Sophie Howe, the outgoing Future Generations Commissioner in Wales. Within the NGO world exceptional role models such as Liz Cox and Pippa Coutts, who worked tirelessly to further this mission for decades at NEF and Carnegie UK respectively, were taken too soon by cancer, and others are moving to countries, professions and pastures new.
Today as we honour the huge contribution of these women and many, many more, we urgently need to step up our efforts to provide the ongoing leadership society needs. We must be proud to care, to collaborate, to collectively put the needs of others and the future before greed for power and quick wins. We also need to focus on the task of providing support, opportunities and role models for the next generation of leaders of all backgrounds and genders. We must nurture them in the art of long-term, regenerative, collaborative leadership, of challenging the status quo and rewiring our societies to focus on what matters – our equitable and sustainable capacity to thrive.
Get in Touch if you’d like to support our work, collaborate with us, or commission our services to transform where you live and work. Also look out for the series of guest blogs from women in this field on the CTP channels in the coming months or sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear when they’re released.
*Pioneering women reshaping the economy
Kate Raworth – Doughnut Economics
Liz Zeidler – Centre for Thriving Places
Katherine Scriven and Carrie Exton – OECD Better Life Index
Sarah Davidson and Jennifer Wallace – Carnegie UK
Miatta Fahnbulleh – NEF
Sarah Longlands – CLES
Fran Boait – Positive Money
Rose Marley – COOPS UK
Helen Goulden – The Young Foundation
Rachel Laurence – Centre for Thriving Places
Katherine Trebeck and Lisa Hough Stewart – WeAll
Jane Davidson and Sophie Howe – Future Generations Commission
Nicola Sturgeon – SNP
Photo by Boris Baldinger © World Economic Forum