A Path To Equality On International Women’s Day

A Path To Equality On International Women’s Day


It boggles the mind that in 2019 it’s still can be what's between your legs – and not your ears – that influences your corporate worth and earnings!

In top corporate jobs, the gender pay gap is shameful – women get paid 64 cents for every dollar earned by male counterparts. That’s even bleaker than the average pay gap of 26% between full-time working women and men in Canada.

The problem isn’t just that she’s priced-less. Fewer women are leading Canada’s corporations today than five years ago. 95% of Fortune 500 CEOs are male. Corporate boards are dominated by men, and a dismal 8% of top management positions are held by women. Women remain underrepresented at every level in corporate Canada, despite outpacing men in higher education.

#balanceforbetter is a good theme for year’s International Women’s Day considering that gender balance is seriously out of whack, reflected in workplaces everywhere. Today we’re supposed to cite and celebrate how far we’ve come, but there’s a long way to go when it comes to workplace gender imbalances in compensation, representation, recognition and value. Some serious workplace disruption needs to happen.

Last year Iceland actually made it illegal to pay women less than men for similar work. Bravo! They’ve got a five-year timeline – how about we set targets, timelines, track performance and report back on the shrinking gap? Make every day March 8 – audit salaries by gender, identify the rift, own it and commit to fixing it. 

But apparently, few Canadian companies seem to give a damn: Less than 40% of companies examine pay by gender, according to a recent report by Canada-U.S. Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business. They don’t even have an accurate picture of the number of women in management roles.

So just how to shake things up? So many put fixes forward, like starting with a C-Suite that cultivates and models an array of diverse talent. Reassess job requirements for leadership positions. Set equality targets and hold leaders accountable for meeting those targets. Stop the shortchanging – simply minimize the pay gap.

So many ideas, so little progress. While, it’s certainly not about growing a set, but how about looking at metrics for better outcomes and work parity? According to Valerie Alexander, a tech CEO and keynote speaker on the advancement of women in the workplace, the only way we can seriously disrupt the workplace and make it more equal is for everyone is to step back and take a long, hard look at the metrics we use to define leadership and success. 

“Companies need to examine whether what they reward gets them to the best outcomes or if they’re simply using a value system inherited from the days when only men participated in the workplace,” says Alexander, author of How Women Can Succeed in the Workplace (Despite Having Female Brains).

On the other side, women need to observe what gets rewarded and do that carefully. “I never say, ‘Behave like men!’ We bring so much value as women, but we also have to make sure our contributions are recognized and rewarded inside the system we’re in. We aren’t going to change the system unless we get into the positions to change it.” 

Alexander says to think about it this way: Who does society value more, the firefighter or the fire inspector? Of course, it’s the firefighter. One puts out fires, and the other prevents fires from happening in the first place, so ask yourself, which of those is more intrinsically valuable? Which leads to better long-term outcomes? 

“Companies lavish their highest rewards on those who put out fires, but when they do that at the expense of rewarding those who prevent fires from starting in the first place, the ‘fire inspectors’ will get sick of being overlooked and leave, and then the company will have a lot more fires,” explains Alexander, of speakhappiness.com. Conversely, if women want to get ahead, we should keep up the great work of preventing fires, but if one does start, be the person who puts it out.

Equality is all about metrics, she stresses. “Focus on what behaviour gets the best outcomes, reward that behaviour, give everyone equal opportunity to fail – rather than holding failure against one group more than another – and the most qualified performers will rise to the top. We’ll have both greater equality and far better outcomes."