On September 30, the Chairman of the Board and CEO of Coca Cola, Muhtar Kent, gave a speech at Yale University Law School called Who Will Drive the 21st Century Agenda? Women. At first glance the speech seemed inspiring and encouraging for women. Kent cites personal inspiration from the women of his life his mother, wife, and daughters and from his father and father in law who fought for women's rights.
And Kent cites his own commitment: as a business leader and someone who has been given the responsibility of creating shareholder value for the world's most recognized brand -- I feel a tremendous sense of urgency in ensuring that conditions are ripe for women to thrive around the world.
Kents speech highlighted the many ways Coca Cola is supporting women's rise to power both in its own walls, through a three-year-old Women's Leadership Council program that creates a woman's pipeline to leadership positions and supports flex-work hours for personal sustainability among other things, and through international programs mostly in Africa and other developing nations, that give entrepreneurial support and mentoring to women.
Citing some of the realities we have all come to hear of recently (see WuDunn and Kristoff's Half the Sky) Kent supports the empowerment of women as a means for creating healthier communities. One example he cites along these lines is Coca Colas well drilling in Mali, which frees women (who often spend long amounts of time walking for water) to spend time developing businesses and one such woman developed, not surprisingly, a catering business.
One of Kent's most inspiring quotes:
The only way a projected billion people will rise to the middle class in the next 10 years the only way the world will grow $20 trillion dollars richer the only way more nations will rise out of poverty and become more politically stable -- will be by women...