Fighting for Equality in Corporate Boardrooms

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As an executive member of my school’s Women in Business organization I consider myself well educated on the issues facing women in business today. When thinking of my future aspirations I don’t limit myself to certain positions – to be honest my current career goals are split between making Partner and becoming CEO. What’s more is that whenever I speak about my goals to my peers and colleagues (male or female), I am always encouraged. I have never heard that these positions, or any top positions for that matter, are not a place for women. This is why the lack of equality in Corporate Boardrooms is so shocking.

40% of large public companies worldwide have no women on their board of directors[1]. And it is not just business students that find this number alarming. In the province of Ontario the issue has been brought forward by the provincial government with companies being told to either “comply or explain”[2] with new regulations on the number of women in senior roles. Do I agree with this comply or explain legislation? I’m not sure. Even though I strongly support any campaign to acknowledge the importance of equality in the workforce, I still don’t believe that the issue can be solved so simply.

It’s not that I don’t believe corporations should allow equal opportunity for senior management positions, but I think that there is a difference between how men and women pursue positions and how they lead. A quote from Arianna Huffington speaks to my point, as she said: “Women still have an uneasy relationship with power and the traits necessary to be a leader. There is this internalized fear that if we are really powerful, we are going to be considered ruthless or pushy or strident – all those epithets that strike right at our femininity. We are still working at trying to overcome the fear that power and womanliness are mutually exclusive”[3]. This quote shows that targets and quotas will not entirely solve the problem. Rather we need to figure out how to raise a generation of women who are confident – before we can close the gender gap in the boardroom we must first find a way to close the confidence gap. We need more female leaders who are confident in positions of power, confident in their leadership abilities, and confident in their ability to pursue their own definition of success.

Laura Trommels
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