Why celebrating Women in Leadership?
We have dedicated this week’s theme to celebrate Women in Leadership. We do so because we know that women should support each other in attaining leadership roles and build alliances with decision-makers at the workplace. Thus, with celebration also comes an appreciation of women’s persistent efforts to achieve change and to remove the “im” from “impossible.”
When we reflected on the four waves of feminism, we realized that even though 2018 was coined as the year of women with movements such as the #MeToo and #TimesUp, we still have a long way ahead of us. There is still a lot of disparity at the workplace, where women are not being equally treated nor equally paid, especially at senior levels such as the C-Suite and board levels.
We also believe that some organizations look at gender diversity as a way to reach a certain quota or as an act of tokenism, rather than thinking strategically about the real impact of their contributions. We know that women’s leadership attributes are maximized not only when they're given access to the boardroom, but also when they're included in decision making. Their high level of emotional intelligence, creativity, and innovation, contribute largely to the success of an organization, its sustainability, and impact.
Women in leadership positions in Canada - What impedes women from being in leadership roles?
The 2018 Rosenzweig report examines the top 100 largest publicly-traded corporations in Canada, based on revenue, and how many top leadership roles are held by women. Their report examined 540 Named Executive Officers (NEOs) at Canada’s 100 largest corporations. NEOs are the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), and other C-level executives named in a corporation’s management circulars. Their research found that of 540 executives, 51 are women and 489 are men. This year’s progression indicates that female participation is at a new high of merely 9.44%, up from 9.02% the previous year.
The report also notes that more than 60% of university graduates are women, and social movements such as #TimesUp and #MeToo have gained widespread support on social media and in pop culture. These numbers and movements have brought renewed importance to the call for wider female participation in leadership roles.
If we look at the reason behind the low rates of female representation in leadership roles, we can see a troubling trend. Due to socially-constructed beliefs and often complex circumstances, women take on the responsibility to care for their family & children, and this is even today, considered as the primary role for women. Therefore, getting back or being in the paid workplace is considered an ‘additional’ or ‘side’ responsibility only. This makes it even more difficult for women to move forward with their careers. These false beliefs, among others, contribute largely to the gender disparities at the workplace.
In the corporate world, C-suite or senior management level positions are predominantly occupied by men. Lack of representation translates into lack of awareness of the positive impact of female In the corporate world, C-suite or senior management level positions are predominantly occupied by men. Lack of representation translates into lack of awareness of the positive impact of female leadership. Lack of awareness translates into a lack of visibility and future consideration. Women have to break through the ‘glass ceiling’ to be able to move up the corporate ladder. And even if they do get a seat at the table, this is often seen as an anomaly rather than the ideal norm. All of these and many other complex reasons translate into organizations believing that women are simply not suited for the C-suite when the truth is a lot more complex and nuanced.
What are we hoping for?
We hope for things to change, and this can happen through:
Adopting policies that support women in leadership roles, and promote gender diversity and inclusion on boards and C-Suite levels. Organizations also need to adopt policies that support working moms and all types of women.
Publically celebrate and recognize companies and organizations that support their own female employees and female senior-level leaders.
Women need to support each other instead of competing for one seat at the table. Doing so reinforces the “it’s an anomaly” perception and further cement the glass ceiling. Advocating and championing for more women to be included and heard not only benefits the organization but helps everyone's professional and personal growth.
Organizations need to adapt to the changing workplace. Millennials are now dominating a lot of industries and they have different mindsets. They thrive on diversity, inclusiveness, and true equity. Organizations would need to put new strategies in place that respond to the new culture brought by Millennials. A culture that fosters ethical decision making throughout the organizations, and rejects inequality in all its forms.
Women striving for more management responsibilities, often feel pulled in multiple directions between personal and professional lives, and this creates ‘confidence crisis.’ By reinvigorating mentoring, coaching and development programs, companies can help women build a path to achieve their leadership goals. Change comes from within and cultivates in a supportive and nurturing environment.
Join us in celebrating women in leadership this week, they are the role models, trailblazers and an inspiration for many others. Only if we stand together, shall we succeed together.
By Lara El Shawa & Daisy Gao