In the spirit of the season, I recently picked up a number of gifts for my family and friends that were designed to support companies led by female entrepreneurs.
Each of the gifts were sourced from the SheEO Venture Products marketplace, a collection of products drawn from companies led by women, and the latest example of how SheEO is investing in women and empowering female entrepreneurs.
To say that 2017 was a remarkable year for women is something of an understatement.
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But even with the progress women made in 2017, as an activator with SheEO, I have come to realize that if women aren't going to help one another close the gender gap in Canadian business, no one will.
Despite our Prime Minister doing so much to advance the cause, and a greater awareness of the disparity clearly evident in the board rooms of this country, until recently it's still been a lot of talk and no action. Canada has failed women on so many fronts.
A recent survey of 900 tech companies in this country found that women account for just 5 per cent of CEO roles and 13 per cent of executive team positions. Women make up just 8 per cent of director roles.
What's even more shocking is that more than half of Canadian tech companies have no female executives at all. And that trend is evident in so many sectors across our country.
Canadian men may talk the talk, and many large organizations have invested millions of dollars into the cause, but we have all failed to get the job done. It's up to women to take matters into their own hands.
In a few short months, our culture has seen a profound paradigm shift in the power dynamic between men and women. The most visible shift has been in Hollywood and the entertainment industry – including here in Canada – where the ugly boys club has been exposed by the #MeToo movement, and where women continue to fight to close the gender pay gap. Equality is still a long way off, but it's clear that a movement is under way that portends to reshape one of the most visible industries in North America.
Closer to home, women are still an anomaly in critical fields, across science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries, and more broadly throughout Corporate Canada. Some women have fallen victim to the internal narrative that they are not capable of achievement in these industries, and are often discouraged at a young age from pursuing careers. This is deeply problematic.
For Canada to remain competitive on the world stage, we need women in the work force, and all of the critical jobs in the next generation are going to come from the STEM fields. In order to build a world that sees female leaders and entrepreneurs as the norm, we will need representation at all levels of industry. The next great technological leap, the cure for cancer, the next discovery in the far reaches of space – these are what will advance Canada forward, and we will need all of our greatest minds.
Until now, we've failed to inspire women to these positions. But women are realizing the future of Canadian innovation rests on their shoulders. Women won't fail on this front.
It's time for women to start holding up women, helping them along, sponsoring them, giving them the opportunities they deserve. It's clear we won't be getting the necessary help from other areas.
Consulting firm KPMG recently conducted a study showing that 86 per cent of women are more likely to push for a senior leadership position if they have other women as examples at the top. The study also showed more encouraging data saying that 76 per cent of women are actively helping to advance their female co-workers in their careers as well. This goes to show that the ball is very much in our court as women. As the status quo begins to change, it is up to us to continue to be bold and help raise each other up.
In the meantime, as we inch closer and closer to equilibrium, it is up to the female business leaders who have already forged that trail to continue to mentor, encourage and empower our future Canadian female leaders. We need to continue to be the example showing that Canada's female work force is up to the task of driving the country toward a prosperous future and that as women we too can have a shot at the top positions in this country.