In Ontario, it is clear that we have the interest to achieve gender equality on boards, and while many people feel that implementing gender quotas on boards, many women have identified that they do not want to be selected for a board that has a gender quotas. Women want to be selected for a board based on ‘merit’ and not for their gender.
(For the records, I believe that quotas are a wonderful solution. I think that perhaps to achieve a world where gender equality is the norm, we need to be leaders and say, ‘I’m on this board because of my gender, but I will defy expectations in order to make gender equality the norm for the next generation’)
That being said, we need to push our industry to make it more available for women to join a board. Over the course of the week, several suggestions have been made of changes that our industry can make to help achieve gender equality.
1. Invite her to run –A program started by the Liberal Party started this program during the nomination process for the last election. Under this program, the party reached out specifically to women to ask them to run for public office. This can be as simple as reaching out to a friend who would be an awesome on a board or committee or can be as formal as organization reaching out to women specifically to apply for board position. As stated before, men will apply for a job when they have 60% of the qualification but women will wait until they have 100% of the qualifications. This program lets women know that we, as an industry, want their voice heard.
2. Mentorship – Research suggests that 88% of entrepreneurs with mentors survive in business, compared with a failure rate of about 50% for those without a mentor. For women, mentorship is incredibly important, especially on Boards. Mentorship can be something as simple as reaching out to women who are new on boards and offer to be a sounding board, or something as formal as regular debriefs to check in. The Ministry of Status of Women has a program called It Starts with One, which challenges women in leadership (and non-leadership positions) to mentor another women.
3. Childcare and Accessibility – We know that boards require a time commitment. And for many women, that means taking time away from their children and family life. This can mean anything from missing small moments, to not seeing their children’s first steps. For many mother, this can be a burden to carry and may be a strong barrier to achieving gender diversity. We need to challenge organizations to be more accommodating, not just for women but for parents in general to be able to spend time. Some women have indicated that if there was more accommodations for families, in the form of childcare, or remote meetings, that they would be more than willing to step up. These hurdles, that are keeping women out of the board room are the same that occur for women in the workplace and would allow parents to contribute without sacrificing their family life. The House of Commons is currently revisiting it schedule to help accommodate families for MPs so why can't we revisit this in the Ag sector?
What are some other suggestions to help achieve gender equality on Ag Boards? What can our industry do? What can we do as friends, coworkers, and individuals? AWN would love to hear your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #AWNGETONBOARD or comment below!