Women's leadership Tamara Vrooman

Women’s leadership: stop talking and start measuring


When talking about women’s leadership in business, it’s tempting to focus on heartwarming tales of women who started with nothing, only to reach the highest rung of a corporate ladder.

But those stories are doing us no favours.

In business, the power of storytelling is real. We are social animals and we relate to others’ goals and dreams. But the same success stories have been shared over and over for years, leading us to believe that gender diversity in corporate leadership has been achieved.

Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

This International Women’s Day, I’m looking away from stories and instead to data.

The latest Minvera BC Face of Leadership™ BC Score Card confirmed that women are overwhelmingly absent from BC’s senior leadership roles.

For the second year, only 3/50 CEOs of BC’s top revenue-generating companies are women.

This statistic contrasts women’s representation of 47% of BC’s total workforce, and the national trend of more Canadian women graduating from universities than men.

Women are underrepresented at every step of the corporate ladder, steadily declining as they climb through the ranks.

“This International Women’s Day, I’m looking away from stories and instead to data.”

I’ve previously talked about how we’ve been complacent about women in business and I think measurement is essential to driving action.

In business we have an old cliché, what gets measured is what gets done.

Leaders must set goals for women’s progress, measure our progress, audit and compare our achievements with one another, and speak in the language of numbers.

While Minerva BC’s initiatives are pioneering the way in terms of measuring gender diversity within the business community, it begs the question: why haven’t we been measuring all along?

We don’t measure because we are nervous about counting.

I can’t tell you the number of women I meet who say they don’t like quotas and targets. I’m not a number, we are quick to say. Of course we’re not. As a woman I don’t want to be seen as a number either. So we resist.

“We don’t measure because we are nervous about counting.”

Yet, we can’t use that resistance as a reason not to pursue measurement. When we resist being counted, we have to understand what then comes off the table: we are taking ourselves out of the equation. We’re letting ourselves down.

It puts us at risk of repeating those one or two inspiring anecdotes that may be very powerful, but convince us that we are making progress when we aren’t.

The data reminds us how far we have to go. It invites leaders to be transparent, set firm goals and benchmark progress.

In short, it invites us to be bolder.

Vancity is the exclusive funding research partner of Minerva BC’s Face of Leadership™ Score Card.

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