180 Years Away From Parity? That’s Far Too Long
We’ve seen a lot in the last year. We’ve seen panic, devastation, self-reflection, epiphanies and activism. And we’ve seen pledges–countless pledges to “build back better,” brought to life by heartfelt hashtags and corporate statements. But what were we doing before? Haven’t we been striving to “do better” for years?
The devastating impact COVID-19 has had on women and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities puts a glaring spotlight on just how far behind we were to begin with. For years, corporate leaders have talked a big game about diversity and supporting women in leadership, but even before the pandemic we were possibly 180 years away from reaching gender parity. Why? Because pledges do not mean action. Hashtags don’t equal change.
Globally, less than 8 per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Among Canadian companies, that number is less than 4.4 per cent and women in executive officer positions still earn about 68 cents for every dollar made by their male counterparts. When it comes to governance, 174-out-of-641 public companies in Canada have zero women on their boards. While that number is getting smaller–albeit at a glacial pace–there is even less representation among women in BIPOC or LGBTQ+ communities or with disabilities.
Make Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Your Engine
Let’s allow the disruption we’re seeing in the workplace today be a catapult for change. Let’s ensure that greater diversity, equity and inclusion are the motor for recovery.
While many are just clueing in, Women in Governance has been pushing corporations forward on these pillars for more than 10 years through our events, our governance training, our mentoring and our parity certification programs. Certification involves a comprehensive diagnostic of an organization’s position on gender parity, followed by a report that outlines best practices and key drivers that will enable it to build a roadmap to gender parity, including setting targets. What gets measured gets done, and our experience tells us that targets are the best way to reach a goal.
To date, Parity Certification has reached 372,678 employees through 60 organizations across Canada. Of those organizations that have engaged in recertification, 91% have shown improved performance in strategy, actions and results on indicators of gender parity year over year, and have practices that ensure gender parity sustainability.
Progress is not made by paying lip service, but through consistent and deliberate action. It requires action to invest in research and understand an organization’s current position on parity, action to ensure female leaders in the middle have a pathway to move up while ensuring the pipeline is strong, and action to support women from under-represented populations with the aim of inclusion – not only diversity. Above all, we must amplify the voices of these employees, giving them internal and external visibility – not for our own corporate reputational gains, but to inspire our next generation of female leaders from diverse backgrounds.
Our research is clear: Those who look for diverse talent find it, and those who don’t, find excuses.
As Canada rebuilds, our society depends on the private sector’s ability to make decisions that benefit both stakeholders and shareholders. The private sector organizations that don’t make such decisions will be held accountable and will essentially be voted out by increasingly values-driven customers. These decisions happen when diversity sits at our boardroom tables.
While we need to accelerate the pace of change, we know that progress doesn’t happen overnight. It is a continuing conversation about what we want our society to be and what we need our corporate leaders to do in order to achieve our ambitions. The conversation needs to be had in boardrooms, in workplaces and throughout society, to make sure we continue to shape the world we want to see.
It is no longer acceptable to blame our dismal progress on a lack of talent or pipeline. If we’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that our future will be shaped by those who have not been given a voice in the past.
We can’t wait another 180 years. Let’s change the timeline.
Interested in learning more about parity in the workplace? Attend a FREE webinar – Closing the Gender Gap in the Workplace – on March 18th at 9:30 AM Vancouver time.
Caroline Codsi founded Women in Governance (WiG) in 2010 (aka La Gouvernance au Féminin), a non-for-profit organization with mission to encourage women to develop their leadership, advance their career, sit on boards, and help organizations increase the representation of women in sectors where they have historically been underrepresented, as well as in senior management positions, through WiG’s Parity Certification.
She dedicates her life to all matters relating to the access of women to executive roles and board positions in the corporate world in Canada as well as women’s equality rights everywhere in the world.
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