In the context of the war for talent, women not being leveraged is a missed opportunity for organizations set to achieve business success.
According to research by Dr. Julian Barling, Borden Professor of Leadership in the Queen's School of Business, only 5% of CEOs in Canada are women. Sadly the numbers are even lower in other developed nations like USA and Australia.
Conceptually, the conversation on women in leadership seems to have come full circle in the past decade or so. It began with rhetoric around the importance of increased access of women to leadership roles. It grew with a clear demand for diversity in boards. Finally the conversation came back to understanding the importance of equal opportunity; that harmony can be achieved only in balance - men play an important role in achieving diversity and a seat at the table.
have played a notable role in increasing general awareness on gender pay gaps and equal opportunity at the work place. By inviting employers to participate in initiatives, they have helped bring the conversation to life.
In reality, research studies have found that women are just as successful as men in leadership roles but they have to work many times harder to get to the top. Only 12% of board seats in North America are held by women, and of that, only 3% by women of color.
A key step to achieving more women in leadership is to simply attract more women to the workforce. There is progress on this front.
Statistics Canada finds that more women than ever are pursuing post-secondary education and joining the work force. Changing traditional gender roles means that more women are now able to contribute at managerial levels. However there are pay gaps and lack of equal opportunity for women at senior management and leadership levels. A growing number of women in business today have drive but perceive a lack of visibility and support in order to break though the proverbial glass ceiling.
Women do who find themselves in positions of leadership today are creating their own paradigms. Juggling work success and pressures, with a personal life which requires no less dedication is teaching them to use their creative problem solving skills. The recent interview of Indra Nooyi, Chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo, sheds light on the kind of decisions a women leader of color has to make on a regular basis.
A number of larger employers have found business value in conducting a sponsorship program to help increase gender equality, diversity and increase retention among their high potentials. The next generation of women should expect to benefit in the form of strong role models and mentors who are accomplished women.
When there is a critical mass of educated women in business that are receiving support to climb the corporate ladder, the conversation will move away from women in leadership, to simply leadership.