Creating social value is a hot topic right now. For women. During the two year journey of producing our book, Creating Social Value (coupled with having been the former Director of Babson College’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership), I have seen some intensely interesting and potentially powerful leadership opportunities for women to step in and step up, to shape and guide social value creation.
Here are four things:
1. Remember, the numbers are in our favor.
Women can—and already do—influence how organisations define and execute social value creation. As consumers, it’s estimated that we make 85% of all buying decisions, represent 46.9% of the entire non-agricultural labor force and hold 51.5% of all management and professional positions in the U.S. We own more than 8.6 million businesses. We are statistically the most active members of charitable efforts and advocacy organisations that push for change in the environment, in health and nutrition, education and in protecting women and children. We care about creating social value. We know it matters. But there’s also no question that we can—and even should—do more.
2. Think beyond philanthropy.
Philanthropy is important, but it’s no longer enough to tackle the massively complex problems in our world. Organisations of all kinds and all sizes are identifying and creating ways to better understand “big picture” issues (think the complex, highly interdependent issues of gender/education/poverty) and how they can use their business models, their resources and the talents of their employees, proactively and strategically to create more robust, longer-lasting impact that goes beyond philanthropy.
Creating Social Value profiles the on-going journeys of organisations like Verizon, Campbell’s Soup, UPS , Bidding for Good , showing how they model what’s beyond the traditional constructs of philanthropy. As employees, use the stories to understand (and even support) what organizations do philanthropically. But also, use our leadership numbers to encourage and support an even broader, deeper, more strategic set of initiatives. As consumers and stakeholders and advocates we can also use our numbers to help organizations re-imagine the possibilities and influence the outcomes.
3. Use your collaborative skills and networking strengths.
An important “ah-ha” in curating the book was discovering that leading social value creation is really about co-creation. No one in the organizations we profiled would characterize themselves “The Leader” of social value creation. Whether at Ford Motor Company, Target , IBM, or even Roshan, a telecommunications network in Afghanistan, the most exciting and promising examples feature partnerships and alliances not only within an organisation, but also between organisations and among multiple, diverse (and even wildly disparate) stakeholders. Libraries are over-flowing with research telling us tell that women excel in these collaborative domains. So work it. Who do you know? What do you know? What are the “Big Issues” you are seeing? Where are the links? Who needs to be “at the table” to co-create high-impact social value?
4. Celebrate that there’s no defined “career path”.
If leading social value creation matters to you, develop the profile of an expert and a track record of success. Every leader we followed in their journey of creating social value was passionate and even inspirational. But every single one of them also had core business experience and expertise in often more than one company or industry, in more than one functional area and, most importantly, could draw on their proven record of success in getting things done, making things happen, both in their organisations and among and between organisations. They began in engineering, consumer affairs, education, finance, law, marketing, product design, operations, and the sciences. They became valued, trusted employees and advocates. They have an ever-expanding toolkit; they never stop growing. They are “seekers”. They are “connectors”. Use your profile, your expertise, your track record to get in there and lead social value creation.
Let us know your reactions, your questions. Send us your story of creating real social value. It matters.
Dr J. Janelle Shubert
Dr. J. Janelle (Jan) Shubert came to Babson College in 2004, as the Associate Director for the Center for Women’s Leadership and then served as Director from 2007–2011. Prior to coming to Babson, she had spent almost thirty years in university teaching and administration. This included work at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government (1992–2004), London Business School (Visiting faculty 1990–1992), Harvard University’s Business School (1986–1990), Harvard University’s Program on Negotiation (1985–1986) and the University of Michigan (1978–1985).
A consultant for over three decades, working with public and private, for-profit and not-for-profit organisations, Shubert also served for four years as a senior member of a consulting group dedicated specifically to helping organizations enhance the leadership development of their most talented senior women.
Since 1994 she has been a member of the International Teacher’s Program serving as co-director during its years at London Business School and then as a faculty member in subsequent years.