Levelling the Playing Field – Piling Canada (*Anglais*)

On parle de nous Le 20 décembre 2023

Gender disparity in the workplace has long been a big issue. Just ask any woman in the workplace. So, it is encouraging and refreshing to see organizations such as Women in Governance (WiG) helping to level the playing field. WiG is a Montreal-based non-profit organization formed in 2010 that supports women nationwide in their career advancement, leadership development and ambitions to serve on boards. WiG also helps organizations achieve workplace equity, diversity and inclusion with its Parity Certification, which began in 2017.

“What we did from 2010 to 2017 was support the women who had mentoring programs through governance training, inspiring events, panel discussions and more,” said Caroline Codsi, founder of WiG.

“Then we found that women would go back into the workplace that had traditionally been built by men for men and, although they had the boldness that was required and the education and ambition, they still faced some systemic obstacles.”

Codsi says she is pleased that to date, WiG has one million employees working for an organization with the Parity Certification.

“This means we’re actually modifying corporate culture and implementing new policies, in addition to launching new strategies to allow women to progress. This is how you have a real impact. Not just one woman at a time.”

What WiG looks for

Codsi says WiG is striving for a 40/60 balance between men and women at companies that achieve parity certification by boosting innovation, performance and the capacity to penetrate new markets, create new products and boost employee engagement.

“The organizations we work with get that they have to do that. On a broader scale, this is how you have a fair society where women can contribute to the level of their competence and knowledge. This is probably the fastest way to accelerate gender equality in Canada. The other important way is through parliament and having more female parliamentarians and legislators who can focus on ensuring this.”

She says that the quickest way to accelerate gender equality in Canada is by reaching the top echelons of major corporations, where women can contribute to the level of their competence, knowledge and experience.

“The young women I’ve met don’t lack experience and they don’t expect to be treated any differently. They will call out unconscious misogyny and sexism in a nanosecond.”

The certification process

To begin the certification process, WiG has an online platform that houses a questionnaire with approximately 80 questions to help organizations better understand where they stand on the gender parity spectrum.

“Organizations will say they want to have more diversity, equity, inclusion and women at every level of the organization in leadership roles, but they don’t necessarily know where the gaps are or their magnitude,” said Codsi.

“We need a robust pipeline of female talent, so we must ensure organizations are doing the right thing with the women who join their ranks and the women who have been with them for a while. This is to ensure they have an equal chance with their male counterparts to progress within the organization. We look at targets and show our clients their numbers for each category and what they should ideally look like by 2030, for example. We share with them practices, benchmarking and recommendations, and help them progress toward parity.”

More than 100 companies in Canada and the U.S. have been certified. This includes many companies, such as financial institutions, universities, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, federal and Crown corporations and more. Some companies that have achieved certification include Air Canada, Bishop’s University, Canadian Coast Guard, CBC, City of Montreal, Concordia University, FedEx, McGill University, National Bank of Canada, Pfizer, Rolls Royce, Sun Life and more.

“We have a very high retention rate of about 80-plus per cent of organizations that recertify year after year,” Codsi said. “This is because they want to see how they’ve progressed since the last time they’ve submitted. Many companies will resubmit the following year and hopefully continue their progress of certification.”

She says that as societal perceptions shift and organizations transform, the methods to achieve gender equity must be revisited and refined regularly to gauge progress, ensure accountability and help pinpoint areas where the strategy might be faltering, necessitating recalibration.

Certification levels

The WiG Parity Certification allows companies to achieve bronze, silver, gold and platinum status by answering a series of questions that will contribute to change by:

  • Influencing organizations to implement programs and practices that foster career advancement of women from all backgrounds to senior leadership positions.
  • Enabling organizations to attract the best and brightest talent.
  • Highlighting a more inclusive company culture, which correlates with higher employee engagement.
  • Supporting enhanced innovation and ability to respond to market fluctuations.
  • Differentiating organizations such that they attract investors, customers and other stakeholders.
  • Engaging men as stakeholders in gender parity and recognizing their role as equal beneficiaries in advancing workplace inclusion.

The certification process also examines the qualitative aspect of a client’s numbers. WiG will then explain the results and suggest initiatives that should be implemented.

Once this is done, WiG sends a detailed, comprehensive and personalized report to the client explaining where they have been ranked from bronze to platinum.

Codsi says of the current 83 certified companies, 10 have achieved platinum certification, and the other 73 are spread out amongst gold, silver and bronze.

“What’s really interesting with the organizations we work with is that we have those that are doing phenomenally well that are pioneers and models in that field. And they still come back year after year to recertify because it’s a dynamic exercise. There are always new things happening within the organization and society, so we add new criteria.”

She says when major corporations reach the top echelons, this is how you achieve a fair society where women can contribute to the level of their competence, knowledge and experience.

“I would say that this is probably the fastest way to accelerate gender equality in Canada. Gender equity is like driving a car up a hill and if you remove your foot from the pedal, it’s just going to go backwards.”

By Lisa Kopochinski