October 21, 2013 — Last February, as I reviewed the 2012 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Senior Officers and Top Earners, I was challenged to find anything positive to say about a .4 percent change over two years.
Still, when I stepped back from the uninspiring data, something “felt different.” Perhaps it was the number and credibility of business leaders speaking intentionally, passionately, and publicly—business leaders who were supporting their words with action by sponsoring women and being champions for change in their organizations, industries, and communities.
It may have been a growing recognition in Canada of moves in other countries to increase the role of women as senior business decision-makers, and the competitive advantage that having more women leaders brings to a nation’s economy.
Since February, we have some concrete evidence to support that sense of change:
The government took action in the form of a federal advisory council to increase women’s representation on boards across Canada, and the Ontario Securities Commission drafted “comply and explain” legislation.
Around 20 FP500 companies signed the Catalyst Accord, setting a goal for increasing women on corporate boards to help lift the average representation across the FP500 to 25% by 2017 .
Have we reached a “tipping point”? I hope so. But I don’t think we can assume that the scale will tip without some active intervention.
Enter our 2013 Catalyst Canada Honours (CCH) Champions—all game changers. Using their own positions to challenge and influence change in the status quo, these six bold business leaders have created a significant shift in attitudes and practices in their own companies, and in the Canadian business community.
Each of our Champions recognized the crucial role of sponsorship in career advancement, and acted as sponsor and champion to many women. Beyond that, they challenged and inspired other business leaders to step outside their comfort zones to foster talent in women and advance them to leadership.
Their profound personal commitment cascades through their companies and into their communities. Our CCH Champions are changing attitudes and creating work environments where women can thrive and reach their full potential. And they have proven that sponsorship works. Many of the women who have received their support are now moving into leadership roles, bringing with them a deep understanding of the critical impact of a sponsor and creating opportunities for talented women and men to advance.
Our CCH Champions have made it a priority to ensure that businesses tap the brilliance of all available talent—men and women alike—to develop future leaders. As we salute them, let’s also follow their example. Because transforming the workplace begins with individual efforts. And our Catalyst Canada Honours Champions have proven that individual efforts can have a profound impact—not only on women, but on our economy, corporate Canada, and the world.