#EmbraceEquity is the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day with the aim of bringing attention to the concept that “equal opportunities aren’t enough”.
So what does this mean? Essentially, it’s that people start their lives from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action.
Gender Equality Requires Gender Equity
While the idea of equal opportunity – that is removing arbitrariness and prejudices from the selection process so that everyone gets a fair shot at success – seems straightforward enough it fails to take into account that “absolute fairness” within a process such as hiring or university admissions cannot exist when there is a legacy of systemic and structural inequality in our systems, laws, policies and entrenched practices.
Fairness really only works as an equalizer when people come from the same starting points.
As such, equity-based solutions take into account the diverse lived experiences of individuals and communities, adapting services and policies according to these differences.
In the spirit of IWD 2023, our team at Webnames would like to profile some Canadian organizations, initiatives and resources that are addressing the need for gender equity and gender equality in our workplaces, institutions and society more broadly.
Canadian Prosperity Project and Rosie the Riveter Initiative
Since 2020, the Prosperity Project has published three annual report cards on Gender Diversity and Leadership in Canada. These report cards are a first of their kind and represent the largest-ever look at women’s representation at the leadership level of Corporate Canada, incorporating intersectional data and inclusion stats across key leadership positions in 98 participating organizations.
Key findings of the 2023 report includes a drop in women’s representation in the pipeline to senior management roles, and that women continue to represent approximately one-third of corporate director roles and executive officer roles in Canada (steady from 2022).
They also run a number of programs designed to increase labour force participation of women in STEM, skilled trades and leadership roles, including the wonderful Rosie the Riveter Mentorship Initiative and Resource Portal which includes over 1,000 resources in a one-stop shop to help women overcome barriers they commonly encounter in building their careers.
As one of sixty Founding Visionaries associated with the Prosperity Project and Co-Chair of the Rosie the Riveter Mentorship program it’s been powerful to see intersectional data on women’s representation at the leadership level in Canada not only published, but used to push Canadian companies to do more about gender equity faster. I am also proud of the work being done to help advance the careers of women – particularly those in STEM fields – through the guidance, support and encouragement of a growing group of women mentors under the Rosie program.
50-30 Challenge to Increase Diversity & What Works Toolkit
The 50 – 30 Challenge is an initiative between the Government of Canada, Canadian businesses and diversity organizations that call on Canadian businesses to aspire towards gender parity (50%) and more representation of equity-deserving groups (30%) in boards and senior leadership. The Challenge addresses the continued underrepresentation of women and non-binary people, Indigenous people, Black and racialized people, persons with disabilities and those who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ in Canada’s board rooms.
To date, nearly 2000 organizations have joined the challenge – including Webnames.ca.
To support the 50 – 30 Challenge, the Government of Canada has also created the incredibly helpful What Works Toolkit that provides tangible actions organizations and individuals can take, resources designed to set out policies and approaches for recruitment, mentorship, promotion, and retention of board members and employees, as well as anti-racism, anti-harassment, and inclusive workplace strategies, and other related relevant activities and initiatives. The Toolkit is an excellent starting point and ongoing resource for any organization that has made a commitment to furthering diversity and equity within the context of the challenge or outside of it.
We encourage all businesses to join us in the challenge by signing up to the 50 – 30 Challenge today.
Closing the Gender Gap in Tech & Supporting Girls in STEM/STEAM
The persistent gender and diversity gap in technology has been widely known, discussed and worked on for many years, yet we remain far from closing it. In fact, the problem has worsened since the pandemic and the recent expansive layoffs occurring in big tech during 2023. As a women in leadership in the tech industry for over twenty-years, change has been happening far too slow.
According to research by talent intelligence platform Eightfold AI, tech layoffs are impacting women at a disproportionately higher rate than men, representing a further setback for the industry’s efforts to improve its gender diversity. UNESCO reports that women remain significantly underrepresented in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics – making up just 31% of research and development positions and only 24% of leadership positions in 2023.
As I explain in a recent article publsihed on Forbes Small Companies Can Help Close Tech’s Gender Gap — Here’s How To Start, we can’t rely on large corporations or government to increase diversity and representation in tech. All companies need to become curious about the structural and systemic roots that perpetuate this inequity.
Implementing practical course corrections such as supporting and facilitating women, girls, trans, genderqueer, non-binary, two-spirit, and gender questioning youth in pursuing scientific interests and exploring careers in STEM fields through more initiatives like the Science World’s Girls and STEAM really do help – but it takes consistency, funding and time.
Girls in STEAM itself focuses on dispelling myths about STEAM occupations and gives girls a welcoming space to engage in STEAM-based activities in order to increase their interest and confidence. It also highlights the local community and resources available to girls and women in STEAM, including facilitating mentorship relationships with women which aid in both applied learning and representation.
As a sponsor and mentor participant in Girls and STEAM since its beginning, I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact it has had on participating girls and am delighted Webnames has been able to participate every year.
- Getting women into science and tech is critical for businesses
- Why Girls in STEAM Week is a Start, Not an End
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Each year International Women’s Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on our own progress as businesses and individuals in support of gender equity and increasing diversity in our workplaces and institutions. To make progress on gender equity, it needs to be part of every society’s DNA.
If you’re Canadian, consider connecting with one of the organizations or initiatives featured above, or another organization of your choice that’s advancing the cause of gender equality and gender equity locally, nationally, globally or within your own industry.
Canadian Organizations and Initiatives Advancing Gender Equity
- Women and Gender Equality Canada
- Canadian Women’s Federation
- Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women
- Community Foundations of Canada: Communities For Gender Equality
- Women of Influence: Ten women-led organizations working to support gender equity
- The Royal Commission on the Status of Women