Getting Past Stuck: Canadian Style

December 20, 2012Sometimes the stubborn lack of movement in statistics on women’s participation at senior levels of corporate Canada makes it feel as though we’re stuck. It’s encouraging when 600-plus business leaders gather to celebrate champions of women’s advancement at The Catalyst Canada Honours. And we’re delighted to see so many FP500 companies (such as the latest signatories, WestJet and Ernst & Young) signing the Catalyst Accord to help increase the number of women on Canadian corporate boards.

But what would it really take to shift those statistics?

We asked members of the Catalyst Canada team for the one thing they would do to bring change to Canada’s workplaces. Some people thought the responsibility for equity at all levels of the organization needs to shift from HR departments to senior management. Here’s what they said:

Erin: “Change the perception that diversity and inclusion is HR’s responsibility. When I talk to people about expanding the senior management mindset and life experience as a leadership philosophy that helps reduce systemic barriers, they come to understand their role as inclusive leaders.”

Emily: “We put a lot of pressure on HR departments to deliver the silver bullet on something that should be on everyone’s mind and a part of everyone’s actions. Make developing others and providing equitable access to opportunities mandatory for leadership performance evaluations.”

Christine: “I’d want business leaders to understand the significance of the pyramid—the underrepresentation of women in senior roles relative to the proportion of women in the workforce. It’s not only about increasing diversity at the decision-making table, it’s about identifying and tackling the issues in talent management systems that unintentionally prevent companies from being able to promote in proportion to the next level down in the pipeline. The persistent pyramid shape is a symptom—it tells us there are problems that still need addressing.”

Sunniva: “Senior management’s report card and wages should be attached to the diversity of their workforce. And the conversation needs to be broader to include everyone.”

Others wanted to start much earlier:

Joanna: “Increase the diversity of typically male-dominated industries. Teach children from an early age that there aren’t male jobs and female jobs, but jobs that match each individual’s skill set and interests. Show them that they should work toward doing something they truly love and enjoy.”

Sylvia: “I would like to see a more gender-neutral society, where girls and boys are encouraged to be who they are without being limited by expectations, stereotypes, and biases. Can we imagine a world where girls are encouraged to focus on their minds instead of their looks? Or one where masculine norms are put aside and it’s okay for boys to express their feelings? Where men and women are seen as equally capable of looking after children and being CEOs? Parents can teach children to challenge gender stereotypes, and advertisers and the media can move away from messages that reinforce gender stereotypes.”

Just imagine! We’d like to hear from you: what would you change to get us past stuck?

The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.