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More Women in Authority

For many decades futurists have been predicting that "the future is female". This is based on an expectation that social and community-building skills will increasingly be more important than brute force and outright competition. Indeed, as Ian Pearson explains in this BBC News article, as a "care economy" emerges, "people will have to focus on being people [and] using their emotional skills" -- and women are instinctively better at this than men.

As I argue in Seven Ways to Fix the World, to deal with those future challenges on the horizon we will increasingly need to "start forging more caring and sharing community structures that are capable of putting the long-term survival of the majority ahead of short-term individual greed". And almost certainly, this will not happen without women and men in authority in roughly equal measure. No species can excel without drawing on the collective talents of its entire gene pool, and this is something that the human race now needs to realize and fast.

The Credit Crunch Wake-up Call

The economic downturn that began with the credit crunch and banking crisis of 2007 and 2008 was the result of excessive risk taking and short-term decision making within the financial markets. There is also increasing research to suggest that such behaviour was fuelled by testosterone. Indeed, the link between "testosterone-fuelled fantasy" and poor financial decision making is now becoming an increasingly mainstream debate. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that some -- including 20-First.com -- propose that we need a new focus on "womenonics".

Womenonics recognises the fact that, as argued by investment partner Anne Hornung-Soukup, "women are simply better credit risks as clients, and more prudent as investors and managers. It's easy then to take this argument to the next level and conclude that if more women had been in charge of the banks, all around the globe, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now." Or as financial analyst Anna Cecilie Holst expresses this sentiment so powerfully, "I don't think Lehman Sisters would have taken the same risks as Lehman Brothers". Research from Harvard has even suggested that the more testosterone is involved in making a financial trade, the riskier it is likely to be.

Women and the Bottom Line

Beyond the financial markets, there is also very strong evidence that having more women in authority would improve business performance more generally. For example, in 2007 a report from McKinsey called Women Matter indicated with "no doubt" that, following a survey of 89 top European companies, those with a higher proportion of women on their boards had the strongest financial performance. A similar study by Catalyst in the United States found that the Fortune 500 companies with the highest ratio of female board directors strongly outperformed those with the fewest women included.

Recognising the issue, in 2010 the European Commission published a report that indicated that a lack of women in key decision making positions constitutes an impediment to economic stability and growth. Meanwhile, over in Australia, Goldman Sachs have even calculated that the country could boost its GDP by 11 per cent if it had women and men in senior positions in equal measure.

A Return to the Mandate of Biology?

By forging male-dominated power structures the human race has done much to sew the potential seeds of its own downfall. Indeed, our civilization arguably now faces some of its most difficult decades precisely because we have for far too long failed to incorporate an appropriate level of female perspective into our key decision making processes. The credit crunch may have been a wake-up call. However, the pending impact of climate change, Peak Oil and broader resource depletion could well make the credit crunch look like a minor concern.

Planetary cohesion, the welfare of the biosphere, and the long-term survival of the majority somehow need to rise to the surface as the dominant memes of the 21st century. In such pursuit, our civilization needs to accept the oh-so-slow death of economics, and to further embrace new non-profit, community-focused activities such as crowdsourcing. Unfortunately, all of this is extremely unlikely to happen without far more women being involved in key decision making activities at all levels. Nature gave the two sexes of all species minds programmed in subtly different if highly complimentary ways. By not reflecting this in our most important decision-making mechanisms the human race has therefore become rather foolish, and this is something we have to address.

For more information you may want to visit 20-First.com and 2020 Women on Boards. There is also a great McKinsey article by Joanna Barsh on how women can fix capitalism.

This topic is also discussed in far more depth in my book Seven Ways to Fix the World.
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Humanity increasingly needs to rely on the talents of its entire gene pool.

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