Women comprise at least half of the population worldwide, and Canada presents no exception. However, looking at businesses and industries across the board, women are woefully underrepresented in leadership roles. While the 2016 Canadian Board Diversity Council report card discovered that more women than ever sit on company boards, the data revealed how low the bar is to set a record: Only 21.6% of Financial Post 500 companies’ board seats are filled by women.
Still, studies such as this show that the tide is turning, and it’s turning quickly. The 2015 CBDC study pointed out that the annual pace of women serving on more boards has boomed in these early years of the 21st century, and the council expected boardroom gender parity by 2028. Also, as quoted in a 2015 CBC News article, Jay Rosenzweig of Rosenzweig & Company stated that Canada is approaching a “tipping point towards gender equality in business.”
Perhaps we should be content in this holding pattern, as long as the arc bends toward equality. But why not put the pedal to the metal?
There is no reason why women cannot quickly begin occupying boardrooms and other higher positions, and there are plenty of data presenting the benefits of having women in leadership roles.
Women’s participation in boardrooms results in “[s]trong financial performance, ability to attract and retain top talent, heightened innovation, enhanced client insight, strong performance on non-financial indicators [and i]mproved board effectiveness,” according to a 2016 study from Status of Women Canada. The data show that women’s involvement contributes to diversity of thought, which disintegrates conformist thinking and leads to broader ranges discussion and, thus, more innovative possibilities and results. For these reasons, the SWC recommends that company boards seat at least three women.
Outside of enforcing quotas, many companies recognize these data as fact and reap the results. Organizations like the CBDC develop candidate pools of qualified “board-ready” women, and businesses like TransUnion actively take advantage of them when considering new leadership hires. Some companies don’t consider prior C-level experience as a prerequisite for hiring and instead pick women candidates for their promising merits. Others even hire multiple women leaders at the same time as a sort of system shock, hoping to more quickly change behaviours and integrate new board members. Finally, one of the most essential practices in preparing more women to ascend to leadership roles is, quite simply, to load women into managerial roles that can lead towards the top levels of any given company.
Of course, perhaps the most important tactic companies can practice in order to promote women into leadership roles is to sponsor and mentor women with high potential.
Simply providing women with opportunities to shine shows that they’re fully capable of rising to occasion, but women must pointedly be provided these opportunities in order for change to occur. And mentorship not only exposes promising women to the necessary fundamentals of executive leadership; the relationship fosters confidence in a newer generation of talent and potential.
We can explore this final tactic at a later time; for now, we’d like to point out that the Women & Automotive Canadian Leadership Forum remains hyper-focused on these truths and acknowledges these practices as the path to equal representation in business. The forum itself will bring together successful women (and the men who support them!) to expound upon how better we can instill these actions through the Canadian automotive industry in order to forge a more successful, innovative and diverse atmosphere for all Canadians.