The city of Yellowknife and Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce held the Trailblazers Symposium on March 8, in honour of International Women’s Day.
The full-day conference was the third Trailblazers event of its kind and featured speakers, networking and a business panel about diversity in Yellowknife.
Maureen Van Overliw of Momentum Training gave a talk titled Shifting to Create Balanced Leadership in the Workplace.
“Out of the top 500 organizations in Canada, 109 do not have any women on their board of directors,” she said.
The job of a board of directors is to direct the vision and scope of an organization, and with no women, they’re missing out on diverse perspectives, said Van Overliw.
On a federal level, women made up 27 per cent of members in the House of Commons in 2017.
“So it’s getting there, still not where we want it to be,” said Van Overliw.
On the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s ranking of women in 193 national parliaments, Canada comes in 62nd place, lagging behind countries like Rwanda, Afghanistan and Mexico.
But Canada won’t ever get to gender-balanced leadership in the workplace without addressing other issues first, said Van Overliw.
Using three glasses labelled family, politics and work, Van Overliw poured water from a jug into each to represent her life balance between the three areas.
“Notice how full each of these vessels are,” she said. “They’re not at all (full). So I’m not performing at maximum capacity or volume in any one of these in my life.”
That balance looks different for each woman, but they often feel guilt or shame about not performing at their best, said Van Overliw.
“We need something else to come along to fill up this vessel so we can start to maximize our potential in other areas as well,” she said.
Promoting a fairer share of parenting duties is a good place to start, as employment minister Patty Hadju said in a statement last year.
“There’s a business case behind it,” said Van Overliw.
In Canada, either parent can take up to 18 months of parental leave, not just mothers.
Statistics show 86.7 per cent of mothers are taking that parental leave, compared to 13.3 per cent of the fathers, she said, which makes a monumental difference.
The exception is Quebec.
“They have a policy, it’s called the daddy quota. They introduced it as part of Quebec’s parental insurance program. It offers dad three to five weeks of leave and it can’t be transferred over to the mother,” said Van Overliw.
The policy has seen the number of fathers taking parental leave increase by 250 per cent, she said.
In addition, long after their leave had ended, the fathers’ daily time doing household chores was 23 per cent higher.
“They’re taking ownership over a domain of their life that maybe they haven’t taken ownership of in the same way before,” said Van Overliw. “No longer are they just regarded as a breadwinner, they’re an active participant.”
The reasons men don’t take parental leave can be informed by social norms and gender norms that shape perceptions of men and women and influence behaviour. These include personality traits, domestic behaviour, occupation and physical appearance.
“These are the social norms that are being shoved down our throats in so many different ways. And we need to recognize that’s what’s out there. Until we recognize it we can’t intervene or nudge it away,” she said.