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Other Canadian companies are also working to improve the
number of women in leadership positions. Back in 1987, women
made up about three-quarters of the RBC workforce, but only one
per cent of the executive cadre. Today, the workforce is 64 per cent
female, and women make up 37 per cent of the executive population
in federally regulated businesses in Canada.
“These figures are the result of a long-term organizational
commitment to the full inclusion of women across every dimension
of our business,” said Per Scott, RBC’s vice president, Human
“RBC uses a strategic approach that combines focused recruitment
strategies, leadership development programs and experiences
and inclusive attitudes and behaviours in our talent management
practices,” said Scott. For example, the organization aims for 50
per cent representation of women in all leadership development
Furthermore, “the Women in Leadership initiative provides a
cohort of 26 executive women key development experiences, active
sponsorship and exposure to advance their careers.” RBC also
has an executive women’s peer network, and six regional Employee
Resource Groups (ERGs). In 2013, RBC began to target unconscious
bias as a factor that may be hindering women’s advancement
by helping employees build awareness and develop skills to address
their own unconscious biases.
MENTORS, SPONSORS, LEADERS
Mentorship programs, once considered to be high on the list of
desirable strategies for helping women advance, are no longer seen
as a cure-all.
“In fact,” said Laidlaw, “Mentorship is not proven to advance
women. What is proven to advance women is sponsorship. It’s
about having someone who believes in their potential, because
studies have shown that men tend to be promoted on their potential
and women tend to be promoted based on their performance.”
Laidlaw believes integrated talent management is another key.
“This means embedding the principles of gender difference
into all of your people and business processes,” she said. “The way
in which you assess talent, the way in which you recruit, the way in
which you consider promotions or succession, the values of your
organization.” Even the language of job postings, she says, can have
an impact on the gender balance of hires.
Above all, she says, leadership accountability is paramount.
“The most important part of this is developing inclusive leaders
who will ask questions, be curious and make sure that everyone
has a voice at the table.” The inclusive leader is ready to challenge
assumptions; for example, “the assumption that a woman who has
a child at home may not want to be promoted, to work on the
weekend, to relocate, to take on an extra project,” said Laidlaw. “In
fact, work-life integration is of equal importance to men and women,
and it’s even more important to millennials who are coming
into the workplace.”
It makes sense to leverage women’s strengths at the highest levels
of the organization. As leading Canadian businesses are showing,
a common-sense approach can unleash the skills already available
in the workforce. ■
■■ Gender Intelligence: Breakthrough Strategies
for Increasing Diversity and Improving Your
Bottom Line by Barbara Annis and Keith
Merron (HarperBusiness, 2014)
■■ Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by
Sheryl Sandberg (Knopf, 2013)
■■ High Potentials in the Pipeline (Catalyst Inc.,
2014: available free on iTunes)
Ollyy / Shutterstock
HRPATODAY.CA ❚ JANUARY 2015 ❚ 27