As the leader of a women’s advocacy organization with a membership of over 1000 talented women working in the Canadian financial sector, I have to admit, I do get irritated when people lament the lack of a talent pool of female leaders in Canada. Perhaps it is because I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by hundreds of intelligent, driven and ambitious business women every day. They work in all sectors of the financial industry, are highly educated, ambitious, and deliver results for the organizations they work for year after year. Why is it that so many of them are invisible to the leaders of corporate Canada today?

Education and executives

There is no shortage of educated working women in Canada. Woman have represented 50 percent of university graduates for 30 years and hold close to half of middle management jobs. Women also represent half the workforce in Canada. The pipeline of educated female professionals has been present for decades. Yet, it has not translated into women leading Canadian corporations in any significant numbers (women hold only 18 percent of executive roles and a mere 5 percent of CEO seats).

"We need to think big and refuse to be invisible."

Promoting leadership among women

The issue we need to address is why women aren’t perceived or recognized as leaders today. Future leaders are picked and groomed by today’s leaders and research resoundingly tells us same likes same. We hand pick our hires and our successors based on commonality and comfort level. While we might think we are unbiased in our evaluations of talent and merit, the research shows none of us are, both men and women. A real meritocracy will require organizations to develop robust talent management hiring and promotion practices that challenge the biases brought to the table. Succession planning at all levels of the organization must include both male and female candidates. Business leaders need to be held accountable for increasing the proportion of women in senior roles because their job is to deliver performance, and greater gender diversity has been proven to deliver superior financial results.

Speaking Up

Women must have a voice in shaping Canada’s economy. To do that, we need to think of ourselves as leaders and have the confidence to make our voices heard in the boardrooms of corporate Canada. We must be able to convey our value to our organizations and not downplay our talent and accomplishments. We need to seize every opportunity to expand our skill set and experience and not question our abilities. We need to think big and refuse to be invisible.