There aren’t enough women leaders or women in finance, tech or government. Everyone knows this. But is it because they don’t exist? Are they not confident enough? Is there a pipeline problem?
The answer to all these questions is a resounding no. What actually holds women down in companies, institutions, and governments, is actually a glut of stereotypes. But a panel featuring four top female leaders at the second annual Women in the World Canada Summit sought to bust the myths and fix the system that holds back women in the workforce.
One myth is the belief that there aren’t enough female candidates for top jobs. As Michele Romanow, a “Dragon” on CBC’s TV series Dragons’ Den and the co-founder of Clearbanc said, “It’s not a pipeline problem. You have to go look for those people and you have to go actively find those people.” Women need to be told that it’s OK to apply for a job you don’t know anything about, she said, and there should be greater access to funding for entrepreneurs and women. Today, the stats are terrible, Romanow noted, with two or three percent of women entrepreneurs in Canada and the U.S. receiving venture capital funding. “They are incredible women to fund, but funds have to do a better job at finding them,” she said.
The Honorable Maryam Monsef, Minister of the Status of Women, pointed out that when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in 2015 that a 50-50 gender-balanced Cabinet makes sense, it was more than time for that change. But the push for equality goes beyond it simply being the right time. “Having greater diversity and more women in positions of power and influence is also the smart thing to do,” she said. “It’s about increasing the bottom line in the private sector, it’s about making better decisions in the public sector, and it’s about ensuring our sons and daughters and genders in between see role models that look like them, that talk like them, that they relate to, so that they start to say, ‘Hey, if she can do it, I can do it, too.’”
Carolyn Tastad, Group President North America and Executive Sponsor Gender Equality, P&G, and Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, President, StubHub also joined them on the panel, which was moderated by award-winning journalist Katie Couric.
“Women are just as good at math and science, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have progress to make on bringing women in to STEM,” said Romanow, noting the ripple effect of the 2016 film Hidden Figures, about the lives of three brilliant unsung women working at NASA.
Katie Couric recalled having interviewed the Hidden Figures screenwriter, who told her she knew the film was a success when her friend, who’s African-American, was walking down the street with her 5-year-old daughter, and they saw three African-American women walking toward them. The daughter said “Mommy, look! Astronauts!” See? Progress doesn’t have to be so hidden after all.
Watch highlights from and the entire inspiring conversation above.
More from the 2018 Canada Summit