This past week, a major American bank with deposits of more than $209 billion collapsed after more than 40 years in the business. In an echo of the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers amidst a massive economic meltdown, the shuttering of Silicon Valley Bank yesterday has sent a ripple of fear around the world’s capital markets.
What exactly leads to such financial events that are triggered by a tiny percentage of the world’s wealthiest people but end up affecting the whole world, not just in terms of financial crises and increasing poverty, but even falling fertility rates?
Three-time Nobel Peace prize nominee Dr Scilla Elworthy says she has recently been talking to women “at the top of their game – including the general manager of a multi-country Microsoft subsidiary, the head of HR for H&M Germany, the leader of a Cambridge sustainability institute, the purpose engagement manager for a global oil company, the CEO of a US endowment focused on gender lens investing, and the sustainability manager for an international banking and insurance corporation.”
She sums up the single major point about capital ownership that all these women leaders underscored for her: that 97.8 percent of capital is moved and decided by white males.
“It’s incredible how little they know about what’s happening. For example, they have no sense of how massive migration is going to be. Business needs to wake up and act,” Dr Elworthy said in a statement marking Women’s Day this week.
She further states: “Capital ignores peace; women are defined as beneficiaries or victims.” She quotes French lawyer and president of the European Central Bank Christine LaGarde, who stated that male domination of the banking industry made the collapse of Lehman Brothers more likely. LaGarde had famously said: “If it had been ‘Lehman Sisters’, the 2008 crash would not have happened.”
Dr Elworthy avers: “Women tend to have the long view, greater awareness of risk and lower egos that lead to more collaborative leadership styles. When women are in the room, it is 21 percent more likely that the decisions made will be more profitable and resilient. If women leaders’ skills are used, you get change: see the fast acceleration out of poverty in Bangladesh.”
In short, she says, “those furthest from the consequences are making the worst decisions.”
Based in Oxford, UK, Dr Elworthy is the founder of The Oxford Research Group (ORG). It was set up almost 40 years ago to facilitate dialogue between nuclear decision-makers and nuclear disarmament activists. As a result of her pathbreaking work, Dr Elworthy and ORG were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988, 1989 and 1991.
She also launched the nonprofit Peace Direct over two decades ago to fund and promote local peacebuilders in conflict areas. She received the Niwano Peace Prize 2003 in Tokyo for promoting nonviolent methods of resolving conflict.
“We have patriarchal well-financed military systems behind a lot of violent conflict, while leaders and activists at grassroots are finding ways around those systems, shifting the focus to conflict prevention instead,” says Dr Elworthy, who developed The Business Plan for Peace to help foster ‘yin intelligence‘ in global leadership. “It’s up to women leaders now to help bring right and left-brain intelligence back into balance.”
Right-brain intelligence, she explains, includes soft skills, which women embrace and which aren’t valued enough.
“The left brain is dominated by goals, strategy, measurement and achievement – often driven by competition. The right brain can see the whole picture, can sense trends, emotions, the needs of nature – and is often driven by compassion. Since these two brain functions are now seriously unbalanced, harmful decisions are being made on the environment, on security and on conflict,” she maintains.
She suggests the following ways to balance the left-brain leadership style that is currently in place in business and governance, and to bring in more right-brain thinking:
- Urgently grow our own interior wisdom, to have the stability, the balance and the determination to influence decisions around us.
- Insist on having a period of quiet each day to reflect, to get guidance, to listen to what is being asked of us. This makes us powerful.
- Get allies. We cannot do this alone but develop common plans and clear objectives, practical plans that can be spread and financed.
- Get top endorsement for these plans, and then maximum exposure on TV, film, radio and social media. Use all our contacts.
- Develop a finance system that recognises low/middle income economies not as beneficiaries of aid but rather as key players in trade, the movement of capital and global economics. Poverty isn’t a lack of money but a lack of equality.
She sums up: “This is far more than feminism, because it engages the whole challenge of being human in a time of great danger for humanity and for the planet.”
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