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Dear Santa: the women of Toronto, Canada, deserve more

Dear Mr. Kringle,

The head office of Women’s Post is situated in Toronto; therefore much of our news coverage occurs in this city. Toronto is our home — and we can see it needs a little extra help. The staff at Women’s Post is hoping that you, Nick, may be able to help us all out.

This is what is on our Christmas list:

More women on boards: This was a topic of great debate throughout 2017 (yay!), but it doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference. The European Union announced a proposal to make it mandatory to have 40 per cent of non-executive members on company boards to be women. This, unfortunately, does not include managerial or executive roles on boards.

Meanwhile, in Canada, very few boards are gender equal (and even less female dominated). Women hold approximately 14 per cent of all board seats and only 26 per cent of open board positions are filled by female applicants. A McKinsey & Company study in 2016 showed that only six per cent of Canadian CEOs are women. A new organization was formed this year to help tackle this issue.

Nick, can you please help us! Instead of dreaming of sugar plums this year, can you help private and public leaders, CEOs, and board executives dream of a company that represents everyone? Let’s have people of all genders, sexualities, and races represented on boards — and not just in non-executive roles!

More funding for things that matter: Infrastructure, transit, education — three things that will help our country, and the people who live in it, grow. All levels of government have pledged a certain amount of money to help municipalities develop new routes and lines for public transportation, but it’s not nearly enough. People are desperate for housing, whose prices have skyrocketed throughout the year in big cities like Vancouver and Toronto with no hint of dropping back down.

Sure, the federal government has announced funding for a National Housing Strategy, and $4.8 billion in transit funding has been earmarked for Toronto, but all of these promises come with a) a timestamp and b) a political commitment. Politics always gets in the way. For example, the Ontario government refused to allow Toronto to collect money from tolls because it could affect votes in the 905 area.

Canada is a prosperous country, and Toronto is better off than other cities. But, there is still work to be done and our politicians may need a little bit of help. How about it Nick?

More women in politics: Canada may have a gender-equal cabinet within the federal government and the Ontario government, but there more to gender parity than representation within a single entity. For beginners, women are still underrepresented as elected representatives to begin with, sitting at only 26 per cent nationally.

More women need to be encouraged to run for all aspects of public government. Politics are unforgiving for women. There seems to be some strange double standard in which women are questioned about their capabilities (and wardrobe) much more than men. This scrutiny makes it very difficult for women to commit to a public service campaign. What if you change that Nick? Can you remove the gendered lens through which people view politicians? That would go a long way to encouraging more women in politics.

End sexual assault and harassment: Forget the celebrity aspect of the #MeToo campaign for a second and lets visit the statistics. Earlier this year, Statistics Canada released the rate of self-reported sexual assault in 2014, and it was about the same as it was in 2004. In 2014, there were 22 incidents of sexual assault for every 1,000 Canadians over the age of 15. This equates to 636,000 self-reported incidents.

This figure only gets more disheartening when you remember that only one in five cases report assaults to the police.

Now, I know you cant do much about this Nick, but is there a way you could spread your holiday spirit around a bit so that people are more kind and compassionate towards others? Maybe if people were more compassionate, they wouldn’t look at women as objects and treat them with such violence?

Nick, I know our wish list is long and complicated. I know it may be impossible to full fill these requests. But, it would mean the world if you could try. We believe in you!

Best,

The staff at Women’s Post

P.S. We promise we have been good this year!

EU proposes 40 % quota for “non executive” women

The European Commission has proposed that companies whose non-executive directors comprise of more than 60 per cent men to prioritize the hiring of women when choosing between candidates of equal merit.

The proposal aims to have a minimum of 40 per cent of non-executive members on company boards to be women. The goal is to have this achieved by 2018 in public-sector companies and 2020 in the private sector. Annual reports on the composition of these boards will be required and sanctions could be imposed if the evaluation is negative. Those companies would then have to explain the measurements they intent to use to achieve the quota.

The quota will apply to companies listed on the stock exchange as of November 2012.

“Company boards in the EU are characterized by persistent gender imbalances, as evidenced by the fact that only 13.7% of corporate seats in the largest listed companies are currently held by women (15% among non-executive directors),” the proposal reads.  “progress in increasing the presence of women on company boards has been very slow, with an average annual increase in the past years of just 0.6 percentage points.”

This proposal has been on the table for years, with previous attempts to pass it blocked by certain European countries. According to the file, it is the issue of state independence is intertwined.

“Although there is a broad consensus across the EU in favour of taking measures to improve the gender balance on company boards, some Member States consider that binding measures at the EU level are not the best way to pursue the objective and would prefer either national measures or non-binding measures at EU level. They take the view that the proposal does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity,” the file reads.

The interesting part of this proposal is that it only applies to “non-executive” roles rather than direct managerial positions. In fact, the proposal actually goes on to say that the reason for this is to minimize interference with “day-to-day management of a company.” While I understand that most companies prefer to hire on a merit system, especially for positions of power and management; the proposal already indicates  the priority of hiring a female candidate should be taken when two candidates have the same qualifications. This focus on “non-executive roles” may actually encourage companies to hire more women, but it also reinforces the idea that top positions are reserved for men.

Why not say boards must be comprised of at least 40 per cent of both sexes. That way, it encompasses all roles and positions within the board? This proposal will be discussed over the next few days; which means there is a possibility for amendments and further specifications.

If the EU is really concerned about gender parity on boards or in positions of powers within big companies, it would step up with a stronger proposal that calls for real equality rather than a piece of paper that placates to the feminist cause without actually creating change.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

New Canadian alliance created to achieve gender parity on boards

A new alliance has been created to help accelerate gender parity on boards. The Canadian Gender and Good Governance Alliance (CGGGA) is made of seven influential Canadian organizations dedicated to pushing forward gender equality in the workplace, especially on boards and in executive positions. 

Despite decades of advocacy, women are still outnumbered in senior roles, especially within financial services. Women hold approximately 14 per cent of all board seats and only 26 per cent of open board positions are filled by female applicants. A McKinsey & Company study in 2016 showed that only six per cent of Canadian CEOs are women.

The CGGGA is made up of Women in Capital Markets (WCM), the 30% Club Canada, Catalyst Canada, the Business Council of Canada, the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD), Canadian Coalition for Good Governance (CCGG), and the Clarkson Centre (CCBE).

This is the first coalition of its kind in North America. The CGGGA Directors’ Playbook is their first initiative and presents practical tools companies can use to achieve gender balance on boards.

Women’s Post spoke with Marlene Puffer, partner at Alignvest Investment Management, who represents Women in Capital Markets within the alliance, to find out a bit more:

Why join forces with other organizations to create the CGGGA? 

There is power in having a coordinated message from the many high-quality organizations that all share a common goal – to enhance the numbers and impact of women on boards and in executive positions. The biggest impact will come from having a clear set of tools to offer to businesses, governments, regulators, institutional investors and other interested stakeholders to improve practices that lead to better governance and gender balance.

What will Women in Capital Markets specifically bring to the organization?

Our industry is at the heart of corporate Canada, where providers and users of capital come together.  Senior professionals in our industry and in related areas are extremely well suited to board roles, and we will be launching a lengthy list of high-quality board-ready women in the coming weeks. Women in Capital Markets has an active network of hundreds of senior-level women, and is working diligently to ensure that they have the support and exposure that they need to reach the highest levels within their organizations and on boards. We are a deep resource of information, experience, and research on what works.  We have partnered with members of the Alliance in the past, and we bring all of this experience to the table with the other Alliance members to continue to find innovative ways to move the dial.

What is the ultimate goal of CGGGA? 

The Alliance aims to amplify and coordinate efforts to increase gender parity on boards and in executive positions, and to contribute to public policy as an advisor for the governments and regulators. Enhancing gender diversity on boards leads to greater variety of thought and leadership styles, better understanding of the end consumer, a wider talent pool and ultimately higher-quality boards.

Obviously, after years of advocacy, mentorship, and change, not enough has been done in terms of gender equity on boards. What kind of difference can CGGGA make and why is the process so slow?

CGGGA can have a potent impact if we can get the Directors’ Playbook into the hands of every board chair and every CEO of Canadian public companies, as well as into the hands of the private equity investors who have influence over the selection of board members for private companies.  The tools that we present are logical, and straightforward to implement:  formal board evaluations, term and age limits, using a board competency matrix to ensure a diversified set of skills and approaches at the board table, having a gender diversity policy to set clear goals and to monitor progress, and a focused effort to broaden the networks that are used to recruit board members.

How did you get into finance? 

I got into finance because I loved math as a high school student, which led me to study economics as an undergraduate.  Finance was a field that was growing at that time (the early 1980’s!), and interesting models that we now take for granted had only recently been developed.  I pursued a PhD at a top US school.  I came back to Toronto as a finance professor at the University of Toronto Rotman School, and after about five years, I decided to join the financial industry as Head of Fixed Income Analytics at RBC on the trading floor.  From there, I have had an unusual variety of roles on the investment management side of the business, with a focus on long-term investors like pensions. I have been on the board at the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan for nine years.

What is your role in Women in Capital Markets? How long have you been involved and why did you get involved?

 I am currently the WCM representative to the CGGGA, and advisor to the WCM Women in Leadership network, where I have been focusing on the creation of the Board-ready list. I was President of WCM in 2001-2002 and previously I was co-Chair of the Education and Outreach Committee.  I got involved at the start of the organization to help encourage high school students to pursue math and to provide insight into the career opportunities in the capital markets.  I have since been involved in almost every committee along the way.

 

Gender parity could add $150 billion to Canada GDP

Pushing for gender equality in Canada could add $150 billion in incremental GDP in 2026, or at least that is what a new report released by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) is saying.

The report, entitled The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Canada, was released earlier this June and outlines a number of things Canada has to do in order to take advantage of this $150 billion opportunity. This includes being more than just a vocal supporter of gender parity.

Too often, companies outline goals for gender diversity on boards or make promises to consider more women in the hiring process — but there is no follow up or accountability. Seventy-five per cent of companies do not track female recruitment or reward leaders for fostering gender diversity. This means there is less accountability and goals of gender parity may actually never be achieved.

The report also indicates only 14 per cent of businesses have “clearly articulated a business case for change” when it comes to considering gender diversity.

Canada is ranked in the top 10 countries of 95 when it comes to women’s equality, but as the report says, “progress towards gender parity has stalled over the past 20 years, and Canada must find anew ways to keep pace.”

More importantly, women should be hired in “high-productivity sectors” such as mining and STEM-related industries. Currently, women only hold 29 per cent of political seats and hold 65 per cent of unpaid care work.

Canada’s GDP growth has slowed to approximately 2 per cent a year, according to the Canadian government. The report shows that unless Canadian businesses make a significant investment in women and continue to grow this rate will remain stagnate.

“A significant part of the solution is for Canada to tap into the vast unrealized potential of women. Accelerating progress toward gender equality is not only a moral and social imperative; it would also deliver a growth dividend.”

In order to see this GDP growth, businesses will not only have to hire more women (create 650,000 more jobs), but they also will need to raise the number of hours worked by female employees and raise productivity levels. The analysis found that the structure of each province’s economy had little factor into the state of gender inequality. Rather, it was formal policies that mandate quotas for women on boards of Crown corporation and universal child-care programs that determined economic gender inequality.

Women, the report says, are willing to work. Unfortunately, there are a number of barriers that either prevent them from doing so, or prevent them from growing in their role.

“This research highlights best practices in Canadian companies that others can emulate. But initiatives need to be implemented holistically and effectively, and measures to tackle gender imbalance in companies only work if they are considered to be a true business imperative. Changing attitudes takes time, and persistence is vital,” says Sandrine Devillard, a Senior Partner in McKinsey’s Montreal office, in a statement.

Hopefully, it doesn’t take too much time to change. Gender parity within the workplace is vital to both the social and economic success of this country — and yet, there are still gender gaps when it comes to positions of power, both in the private and public sector. How many reports like this are necessary before those with the power to do something actually change?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below! 

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Reynolds

Jennifer Reynolds, president and CEO of Women in Capital Markets (WCM), thinks there is an ingrained corporate and economic culture that is to blame for the lack of gender equality within the financial industry. The number of women in positions of power has stagnated, and in 2017, that isn’t a good thing.

“I think sometimes people aren’t aware that Canada has fallen behind in terms of women in senior roles, on boards for examples,” Reynolds said. “Our representation is 12 per cent. Europe has representation up to 30-40 per cent. We, as a country, have fallen really far behind.”

WCM is the largest network of professional women in the Canadian capital markets. This group of women try to educate younger generations in the finance industry to consider careers in capital markets and advocate for greater gender diversity on boards and senior management. The organization hosts over 80 events a year and leads a number of campaigns, both in-person and online.

Reynolds became involved with WCM in 2000 and started volunteering for the then-grassroots organization helping educate young high school girls about careers involving math. She also volunteered for the mentorship program.

“When I graduated in 1994, I thought our generation would be the one where women would have leadership roles in the economy,” she said.

Obviously, WCM had an influence on Reynolds because she remained an active member of the organization for 13 years before becoming the president and CEO. The organization is shaking things up a bit under Reynold’s leadership, trying not only educate young women as to the many opportunities in finance and capital markets, but also trying to involve men in the dialogue.

“Most of these initiatives was about women discussing diversity. It took us a long time to get here, but now we are getting there and we have to involve men in the discussion because they are in senior leadership roles and we need to have dialogue with them to encourage progress,” she said.  “We need to give them a voice and an opportunity to see what they can do personally.”

One of the WCM programs Reynolds is most proud of is Return to Bay Street, an award that helps women return to the workforce after a career break. Each award-winning woman will receive a minimum four-month long paid contract with a sponsoring financial institution, $5,000 towards an education program, access to a WCM mentor, as well as a one-year membership with WCM.

Return to Bay Street is in its sixth year and will be accepting applications until April 13, 2017.

“Too often for women, if you need to take a break, it’s hard to come back,” Reynolds said. “You fall off the track because people think your skills are stale. [Return to Bay Street] helps replenish the pipeline for senior leadership. It brings back senior talent.”

Reynolds studied economics and political science at McGill University with the intention of becoming a lawyer. She found herself enjoying her economics classes immensely, and after four years decided she was better off in business.

“I ended up, fortunately, getting to know some people in the investment industry … and it sounded like a great career — fast paced, opportunity to travel, rewarding,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds worked with the Bank of Montreal as director of capital markets for 10 years before moving on to work with WCM. She is also on the board of the Canadian Development Investment Corporation, a crown corporation that works for the federal minister of finance and is responsible for a number of initiatives.

Reynolds thoroughly enjoys working on the board. In addition to her role with the Canadian Development Investment Corporation, she is also the director on the board of Studio 190, an independent, Toronto-based theatre company.  For her, being on various boards allows her to explore different industries and be creative. It’s also a great way to diversify her network.

As Reynolds explains, every organization has a president and CEO that runs the business, but that person reports to a board, “a bunch of senior people with expertise who help guide strategic vision.” This can be everything from where the company should be heading to overseeing financial statements — it’s also why it’s so important that boards be gender diverse.

“So, what does it matter? It matters because I think women should be part of creating strategic missions of businesses and companies in Canada,” Reynolds said. “From a purely data and research perspective, studies that show if you have that gender diverse boards, it makes your business more profitable. But, you need that diversity on your board – and from a common sense perspective, if you are recruiting from 50 per cent of talent pool, you’ve got to be limiting yourself. You are not getting the best. It’s common sense.”

How do companies do that? Reynolds said it takes two steps. The first is to actually hire women in positions of power and the second is to change your business’ culture. It all starts with statistics, ensuring the company counts and measures everything. “How many women in each level of organization, how long does promotion take, wage gap at each level, then you will figure out what the problem is. Is it that your leadership team only brings forward candidates that are men and non-minority, for example,” Reynolds said.

“If you leave it to chance, it won’t happen. But, if I have anything to say about it, it’s going to change!”

 

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Motion for gender disparity pushed until October at City Council

City Council has promised to address greater gender diversity on the boards of directors of public and private corporations in October.

Councillor Michelle Holland presented a motion to City Council that would see new appointments for women on public boards to start as soon as fall 2016. The motion further directs that all public appointments on boards in Toronto be made up of 50 per cent women by 2019. Unfortunately, the motion was deferred until October because of a heavy agenda at this month’s meeting.

Women in Canada only represent 15.9 per cent of board positions in large corporations and public companies only have 12.1 per cent women. Crown corporations have the highest representation in public office with 30 per cent, but this still falls well below the 50 per cent mark.

This motion is influenced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to have 50 per cent representation in his federal cabinet, which has arguably renewed the work equality debate in Canada. Ontario has also promised to have 40 per cent women representation on their boards by 2019. Involving Toronto in the gender parity goal makes sense alongside the other levels of government so that women can have better representation in positions of power too.

Private FP500 companies have increased their gender parity on boards in their companies to 19.5 per cent in 2015, according to a report by the Canadian Board Diversity Council. Ontario Securities Commission rose the bar when they created new disclosure criteria for gender diversity in Dec. 2014.  Public boards have a lower percentage of equal representation compared to private corporations in Canada.

In a country that advocates on behalf on gender equality, I wonder when the employment sector will embrace gender parity entirely. Both public and private institutions need equal representation on their boards, and it is interesting to see that private companies are leading the way. The fact that the motion was pushed to executive council in October indicates the issue was dismissed in the wake of an important time for gender equality in politics. Toronto needs to join the movement and take women’s rights seriously at City Council.

Women’s Post will be watching to see how seriously the motion is taken in October.