An Executive Perspective on Gender Parity by Natalie Dakers.
Awards are nice, but my eyes are on the bigger prize: gender parity.
When I was recognized as a WXN Most Powerful Women Top 100 Award Winner for 2018, I was truly happy. Not because I’d have a nice, shiny award for myself, but because I know that being recognized as a leader means people will listen to what I have to say. And I want to use my voice to achieve an even better prize: gender parity.
The simple fact is in Canada only 5.3% of CEOs are women. This is shocking given that a 2014 Statistics Canada report says women now make up almost half (47%) of the total number of workers in this country. Clearly, there’s a huge gap for women between labour force participation and labour force leadership, and I’m determined to be a force for change.
I want Canada to achieve gender parity and I’ve got some ideas on how to get there. Just as I’ve spent my career creating a pipeline of investor-ready companies, I’m now focused on building a pipeline of executive-ready female leaders. We can’t appoint women to leadership positions if they haven’t been groomed for the demands of the job, so here’s what I’m doing to help bridge the gap and what you can do, too.
Mentor Young Women
The way I see it, young women need mentorship and guidance on how to build a career to achieve their dreams. They need exposure from a young age to leadership development courses, peer support and access to executives who can provide advice and counsel along the way. If they’re not granted access to C-suite insights, it will be far more difficult for them to cut through the glass ceiling. I make a point of connecting with young women, as I have had the fortunate opportunity of working with various groups like the WXN that specifically mentor younger women earlier in their career who are keen to be our next generation leaders. I try to remind them that when we take responsibility for our future, opportunities will emerge that weren’t otherwise possible. Being in health sciences, we need more senior level talent regardless of gender and so the opportunity to be a leader is wide open – we just have to work for it. Through Accel-Rx, we have specifically hosted events to share learnings and inspire women to fuel their own personal and professional growth. It’s been very rewarding to see the progress made.
Now more than ever before, women are demonstrating their leadership, exerting their influence and speaking out. Around the world, we are rallying together for change, and we need to continue to make our voices heard to change our lives – and those of others – for the better. For me, that means not remaining silent or complacent around a boardroom table. It means speaking my mind even if I think others might disagree with me. And it absolutely means bringing up gender issues when called for. I can’t be a silent witness to the gender gap. I believe I must call it out and work towards changing it so one day soon the talent pool will be gender-balanced. Speaking out also means me taking advantage of my many public speaking opportunities to advocate for gender parity to larger audiences. The next time you take the stage, think about how you can also lend your voice.
As an employer, I lead by example and offer a flexible work environment. This is especially important for women who are often juggling kids and a career at the same time. We can’t achieve gender parity with the same rigid, antiquated workforce standards that were largely created by men, for men. If someone needs to leave work early one day to deal with a family commitment, so be it. The time can be made up later.
If someone wants to work from home, why not? In this day and age, with technology connecting us, having to work in an office, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, needs to be revisited. No matter where you are, it’s easy to work remotely. And if you have a job that can be done from home, why can’t you choose how and when you’d like to work?
In short, mentorship, speaking out and flexibility support gender parity, which leads to happy employees and better results for my company.
Did you know that advancing women’s equality could add $12 trillion to the global economy by 2025*? Talk about a compelling economic reason to close the gap! And, we should also remember the human reason as well: women and men are equals and deserve to be treated as such.
While I greatly appreciate my WXN Award, I’m looking ahead to the greater prize of gender parity – because that’s a victory we can all celebrate.
Natalie Dakers is the CEO and Founding President of Accel-Rx.
First published by WXN, June 12, 2019.