British Columbia: Workplace Gender Equality Still Elusive

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By Jeremy Hainsworth

Nov. 2—Achieving workforce gender equality means addressing unconscious bias and getting a board-level commitment to diversity, the 1,500 delegates to the WeForSheBC conference in Vancouver were told Oct. 14. The meeting’s aims were to discuss the current situation of women in the workforce, what changes are occurring and what additional changes are necessary to achieve true gender equality.

The current situation is at best difficult. McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2016 report, done in cooperation with LeanIn.Org, found:

  •  women hold just 37 percent of managerial positions;
  •  women hold just 19 percent of C-suite positions;
  •  women hold just 29 percent of vice-presidential positions;
  •  women hold just 33 percent of director positions;
  •  although more than 75 percent of CEOs include gender equality in their top 10 business priorities, gender outcomes across the largest companies are not changing;
  •  women remain underrepresented at every level in the corporate pipeline;
  •  corporations promote men at 30 percent higher rates than women during their early career stages;
  •  entry-level women are significantly more likely than men to have spent five or more years in the same role and
  •  challenges are even more pronounced for women of color.

Women already in positions of influence should be mentoring other women, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said: “We need women to connect.”

‘Profit Driver'

The issue of gender equity in the workplace is not a moral one, according to Miklos Dietz, Vancouver managing partner of global management consultants McKinsey & Company, but an economic one.

“Diversity turns out to be the single biggest profit driver, growth driver,” Dietz said, because business success often depends on a company mirroring the community it serves. “If you want to make a company more valuable, make it more diverse.”

But current efforts to put more women in leadership roles lack rigor.

“Commitment at the top is not cascading to middle management,” Dietz said. “What’s on paper is not in practice.”

The ultimate issue, according to EY British Columbia managing partner Fiona Macfarlane, is corporate culture and the need to change it.

EY, for example, has created the position of chief inclusion officer to raise the issue of diversity to board level.

PwC tax services partner Elisabeth Finch adds to this the need for education to help employees and management recognize and correct gender biases they may not know they have.

According to HSBC Canada chief operating officer Chris Hatton, “we all carry [unconscious bias] in one way, shape or form,” which must be confronted before it can be removed. Senior management must lead this change, Hatton said, even if “some of that change is uncomfortable.”

Finally, identifying women with leadership potential and assisting them with training, mentoring and sponsorships is key to moving women into roles of responsibility, KPMG mining industry leader and partner Philippa Wilshaw said.

Women already in positions of influence should be mentoring other women, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said: “We need women to connect.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeremy Hainsworth in Vancouver at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at rvollmar@bna.com

For More Information

For more information on Canadian HR law and regulation, see the Canada primer.

Information on McKinsey's Women in the Workplace 2016 report is available here, the study itself here.

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