Photo: Mélanie Crête
By Isabelle Langlois
Supporting women’s career advancement with no glass ceiling or sticky floor is one of the goals set by Caroline Codsi, President and Founder of Women in Governance, a not-for-profit organization that fosters gender parity and women’s leadership.
Although women represent nearly 50% of the workforce, gender parity is far from being reached in decision-making jobs. In Canada, 40% of publicly traded companies have no women sitting on their board of directors. The innovation, technology and engineering fields are no exception and present alarming statistics.
In 2010, as part of her quest for a solution, businesswoman Caroline Codsi founded Women in Governance, an organization whose mission is to encourage women to sit on boards. Seven years later, she can assert that the entrepreneurial community has taken steps in the right direction. “Companies better understand the necessity of giving a place to diversity and women,” she says. “We’re noticing a growing awareness among management teams, who are now voicing their concerns about the issue.”
Photo: Mélanie Crête
The benefits of gender parity no longer need to be proven. Efficiency, productivity and profitability are only a few examples of the gains that come from a concern for diversity within an organization. “Women and businesses are not the only ones to benefit from it,” argues an enthusiastic Caroline Codsi. “All of society reaps the benefits!”
Although gender parity is appealing, women remain under-represented on boards of directors. Some sectors are more affected than others: for instance the technology sector, where only 5% of companies in Canada are founded or led by women. Results from the recent study co-authored in part by PwC legitimize the actions taken by Women in Governance: women represent on average 13% of tech companies’ management teams while 53% of them have no female executives.
The divide between men and women begins in school, Codsi points out. Women do not initially go into fields like science or engineering, which does not mean they have no interest in them. Some companies have understood the role that women can play: “To reach their goal of incorporating more women into their company, some of them go to educational institutions to demystify jobs in the gaming industry and encourage girls to go into the sector. We’re slowly noticing a shift.”
In 2018, 75 companies aspire to receive Women in Governance’s Parity Certification. The certification was created in May 2017 and aims to encourage initiatives and highlight successful company behaviours. Just like an ISO, the certification closely examines a company’s intentions. “First, there is a quantitative component that records the number of women within an organization and also assesses the company’s mission. Next, a qualitative component studies the actions companies have taken that allow for women’s advancement. For example, do they have policies protecting women from discrimination, harassment or intimidation? Do they have measures for pay equity or for young mothers?” explains Caroline Codsi.
Photo: Mélanie Crête
Companies have to demonstrate that they have implemented effective policies. The goal is to measure results, but diligent companies may also receive points for their efforts. “It’s harder in some industries than in others,” she admits.
Rewards inspire people. Some companies are already waiting to receive their 2018 Parity Certification. In time, Women in Governance aspires for nothing less than for all Quebec companies to request the certification. It also aims to create a Canada-wide Parity Certification for next year.
Until that happens, Caroline Codsi continues to raise awareness about the issue. She focuses on Québec City and Ottawa, having made them her hobbyhorse in the last few years. She argues that the governments must legislate: “Quotas have been proven to work. If we have the solution, why are we wasting time? Why must we wait until we’re last? Quotas have benefited other countries and we must capitalize on them.” Caroline Codsi could list a number of international examples, including France and Norway. “Must we conclude that when we legislate, we find women and when we don’t legislate, we find excuses?” she asks with aplomb.
“No woman wants to admit she’s on a board of directors because of a quota. However, for now, it is a necessary affirmative action that should be maintained until the situation changes.”
Photo courtesy of Caroline Codsi
Governments seem responsive. Doors that were previously closed to quotas are slowly opening up. “Attitudes are progressing. We’re seeing the beginnings of change and it’s encouraging.”
To the woman who recently interviewed Hillary Clinton, feminism and innovation go hand in hand. She concludes by saying that, “If there are clones around the table, a consensus will easily be reached. Diversity brings different points of view. Everyone has their own perspective.”