Working for women: what you can learn from Catalyst’s honourees

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If you are recruiting an equal number of men and women, but have more men in management positions then something needs to change. That’s the message from one of this year’s Catalyst Canada Honours winners.

Ernst & Young managing partner Anne-Marie Hubert won the Catalyst Business Leader award. In 2000, Hubert helped develop a program called Career Watch, which brought together high-potential female employees with their managers and career counsellors to investigate what was holding them back.

“We were losing a disproportionate amount of high potential women from the moment we recruited them to the moment we promoted them to partner,” Hubert said. “[Career Watch] allowed us to identify some biases we had. We made a number of changes to provide better support for all and to eliminate biases that might have existed.”

The future of the Canadian economy depending on recruiting and retaining women and migrant workers, Hubert said.

“Canada should be the best at this in light of the quality of education our young girls are getting and the quality of immigrants we’re getting, but we have not succeeded at creating an environment where everyone can contribute their full potential and reach the upper levels.”

Hubert emphasized the importance of companies working together and sharing techniques to maximize effectiveness. All businesses were facing the same challenges so by sharing their best practices, and improvements made to other organizations’ ideas, all Canadian firms could make the most of the talent they were recruiting, developing and promoting.

“I would like to see CEOs of major organizations in Canada really focus on succession planning for diversity on their leadership team. I’d like them to work on developing a diverse pool of leaders,” Hubert said. “We still have a low representation of women in those positions, which has a direct impact on who’s selected to sit on boards and also a direct impact on the quality of decision making because they’re missing 50% of the population when they’re making decision-making.”

The other 2012 winners were:

  • Company/Firm Leader: Gordon M. Nixon, President & CEO, RBC
  • Human Resources/Diversity Leader: Jane Allen, Partner and Chief Diversity Officer, Deloitte Canada
  • Special Recognition – Board Diversity Champion: Claude Dussault, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Intact Financial Corporation


 Catalyst CEO Alex Johnston said the organization was looking for the combination of dedication and results.

“[The winners] are leaders not just in this sphere but in other spheres. If you talk to them there are a number of things they’re really committed to including the advancement of women and advancement of talent,” Johnston said. “They’re real leaders who have put their own personal imprint on their organizations and put this on the agenda in a focused way, and they’re getting results.

The awards served as inspiration to other companies, and a reminder that improving the advancement of women has a clear business case, and reinforcing the “trifecta” of committed central leadership, a diversity champion in a very focused role, line managers who subscribe to the value and are committed to moving the yardsticks forward.

“It is an important part of a company’s business case, it’s a point we’re really trying to drive home to people. This isn’t just the right thing to do, it does matter to your business case. And I think it’s important to inspire people. We all need role models in different facets of our life,” Johnston said.

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