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Celebrating Canada's Diversity

How Companies Can Reimagine Leadership for Women

Vandana Juneja_Catalyst Canada

Vandana Juneja

Executive Director, Canada Catalyst

There are clear, actionable steps that every company can take to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

The higher up the corporate ladder, the fewer women we see. That’s true in Canada and around the world.

Consider the data: in Canada, men continue to hold over 90 percent of C-level executive roles. In 2021, women were only 52 of the 533 named executive officers among Canada’s publicly-traded corporations.

Despite this, there have been some gains. In Canada, women accounted for slightly more than a third of all managers last year. The proportion of women in senior management roles globally grew to 31 percent, the highest number ever recorded.

That’s meaningful progress, but there’s still a lot of work left to do to reach gender equity in leadership, especially at the highest ranks.

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Here’s where companies can start:

Secure commitment at the top

Ensure that senior leaders, including the CEO, are committed to the intentional and hard work it takes to close equity gaps.

Measure what matters

Commit to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) measurement and transparency. Measure employees’ experience of inclusion. Measure and track board diversity, workforce diversity by employee level, and gender pay equality. Establish DEI targets and mechanisms for holding senior leaders accountable for progress.

Create equitable pathways

Develop fair and transparent talent management systems and procedures to mitigate unconscious bias, including objective advancement criteria, specific and constructive feedback, and equitable allocation of high-visibility jobs associated with leadership positions.

Prioritize sponsorship

Sponsorship is an important career accelerator for women, particularly women from underrepresented ethnic or racial groups. Sponsorship programs can help build an inclusive leadership pipeline for organizations.

Be flexible and practise empathy

Make empathy a management practice. Empathic leadership improves inclusion, engagement, and retention and decreases burnout, particularly for women of colour. Understand what your employees need and design inclusive, flexible work options and hybrid work models to meet those needs.

As we enter year three of the pandemic, I’m optimistic that we have an opportunity to reimagine the workplace and reimagine leadership. Let’s use this moment to drive equity for women.

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