This past October, I had the opportunity to give a 15-minute presentation at the Women In Technology International (WITI) conference in San Jose. In 2010, I'd spoken about the role of information technology in sustainability, and this year, they asked me to speak about the role of women in sustainability. (Doesn't leave much for next year - "internationalism in sustainability" perhaps?. But anyway…) I illustrated my talk about why so many women have gravitated to sustainability by citing just a few of the legions of role models that came to mind.
Some of the thought leaders I highlighted were Rachel Carson (of course), Sylvia Earle (one of my heroes, also known as "the Rachel Carson of the Sea"), Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Mindy Lubber, Christiana Figueres*, and Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathi who had just died the week before, and was much on my mind**.
But as quickly as possible, I moved on to talk about some of the amazing women at EMC.
First up were examples of some women that have jumped into sustainability roles - created them, really - despite not knowing where they might lead. There are many - men and women both - and I won't name them all here. But a few that I did highlight were Lisa, who started our Supply Chain Social & Environmental Responsibility program and now runs Sustainability for our Global Product Operations group; there's Erin who came to me as an intern and now has to her credit some great accomplishments like the EMC EcoKids Drawing Contest and EMC's first Water Disclosure. There's Keren, who created her role on the West Coast (and was our photograher for the WITI shot above) and Jessica and Victoria of our Community Involvement team. And of course Kaisa, who did such a great job on our sustainability report last year but has since left us to pursue an academic career.
But those who know me or have been following me know that my real push is not to get people into sustainability jobs, but to get people to embrace sustainability as a principle within the jobs, careers, and commitments that they already have. To that end, we (by "we", as is so often the case, I mean "Erin and Kaisa"), asked a number of women who have done just that to tell us why they saw sustainability as a part of their existing jobs.
If you're in a job that doesn't have the sustainability title, and if you have a passion for the subject (whether female or male), read on. These are role models for the people who will create a sustainable future for business!
Katie, whose determination and commitment got EMC on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for North America, this year, told us:
“As an Investor Relations Officer, it’s part of my job to keep management apprised of issues that are important to investors. While sustainability is a primary investment consideration for investors specializing in ESG issues, it is also a critical underpinning for any company that seeks to rate highly on traditional financial metrics like revenue growth and profitability. This is why I take an active role in EMC’s sustainability efforts, because being able to discuss and even help drive continuous improvement in areas like environmental and social responsibility makes us a better company and a better investment."
Rachel is an Senior Corporate Counsel. She is one of the smartest and most upbeat people with whom I have the pleasure to work, and she read and re-read every word of our Sustainability Report and Carbon Disclosure multiple times to be sure we said what we mean and mean what we said. And what she said was
"Good corporate governance helps us compete more effectively, sustain our success and build long-term value for shareholders. It provides a framework for accountability and transparency, with oversight by a strong, independent Board of Directors, development of a strategic vision by executive management and execution throughout the organization. It helps to ensure that we are adjusting to changes in the marketplace, assessing and managing risks, and seeing all our opportunities for growth. And, it encourages and facilitates engagement with stakeholders -- including employees, customers, shareholders and external groups -- to build trust and shape our business strategy."
Jillian is my financial controller - without whom we could do virtually nothing, and who helped us with the financial modeling for disposition of unused carbon allowances in Europe.
"I help arrange funding for the sustainability program at EMC because I want to ensure that as a company we are having a positive impact on the environment and our planet’s future."
Sophie's response was very poignant, I thought. She is in our Marketing Intelligence and Strategic Planning group. Never underestimate the power of data, and of being able to present it with visual impact - Sophie helps with both, applying her talent in her spare time because she wants:
“EMC to want to do the right thing. If my efforts can help convince the company that taking a sustainability-oriented approach to business is the right thing to do, I’ll be proud of that, and proud to work for a company that’s sincere in its conviction.”
Sophie: you can, you do, and you have reason to be!
Laura is the Consulting Packaging Engineer who led the team that won last year's Innovation Award for Environmental Stewardship (saving over 2M lbs of waste!). Her principles are clear:
"Sustainability is one of the important design factors we consider in package development, just as providing the right protection for the product is important. This is reflected in our material choices and processes. It is a conscious decision on our part to weave sustainability into our designs to not only meet our customer’s needs, but also reflecting a value that is part of the EMC culture."
There are more - but let me end with Mary, Director and Senior Counsel, who has been building EMC's expectations of our business partners right into our contracts. She makes it clear - this is both a professional and personal imperative:
“I became involved with sustainability out of intellectual curiosity, then realized it was smack in the middle of what I do as a legal advisor here at EMC. The more I learned too, as a mom, the more I was glad I was getting involved. If we all get involved, doing a little bit at a time, a little each day, the better the world will be for my daughter.”
She's right, you know.
*Which reminds me - did you see the article on CNN by Mary Robinson about women who are involved in climate negotiations? Very interesting.
**The New York Times obit cited her ability to "speak truth to power". That has stuck with me ever since - what a brave and important principle to live by and one that I will try to honor.