I was privileged to attend the ‘Woman in Corporate Leadership Initiative’ event hosted by the Canadian and French Consulates and the Economic Club of New York at the New York Stock Exchange. The list of attendees included both genders with an amazing cross-section of industries, functions, and nationalities. The Chairman of Macy’s, Ministers of Gender Equality for Canada and France, CEO of the World Bank and COO of Goldman Sachs to just name a few.
Since early on in my career I recognized the incredible power of woman within a company. I am not really sure why and I certainly deserve no specific credit for it. Without question, many of my early role models at NavTech (which eventually became ‘Here’) were woman leaders – Kara, Laura, Jessica come to mind without even thinking hard about it. The bottom line for me today falls into three themes that I briefly outline below.
First, the current pace is much worse than even those of us paying attention could possibly think. Data from the World Economic Forum (WEF) tells us that at the current pace of “progress” we are still 200+ years away from gender equality. That brings to mind for another W acronym – WTF.
Second, the role of men in support of gender equality needs to advance on a couple of levels. For men not engaging in the gender equality movement they need to get involved. For those already involved, I would challenge you to take the conversations like those today at the NYSE and move it into a discussion with other male colleagues. Preaching to the choir can be validating but converting new members means more including tough conversations with people unaware or with a different viewpoint.
Third, it is often said men should be passionate about this as fathers, husbands, brothers and that is certainly true. However, I think its time to turn that page and address the reality\opportunity that men should be passionate about gender equality as CEO’s, Chairmen and Leaders. The compelling reason for change need not be emotional but just plain smart business. As the CEO of CIBC mentioned today this is not a social engineering project but good business.
It was an inspirational day that caused me to reflect on my experiences, my late daughter, my entrepreneur wife and the many brilliant women I get to work with every day as CEO of contextere. It was a morning well spent that will result in positive change in New York, North America and beyond.