Women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic for many reasons, including the counter measures that most affected businesses and sectors dominated by women and the exacerbated pressures on women for family care. In addition, pre-existing inequalities increased challenges for certain groups of women including those in equity seeking populations, single mothers, women with disabilities and those in rural areas.
Today, many small local businesses are still recovering while facing new challenges, students are playing academic catch up and employees, entrepreneurs and executives alike are calibrating our mental and physical health after a collectively traumatic time of change and loss. The long term affect of record losses of women in the workforce is still unknown, and we are seeing more women opting out of governing and leadership roles.
Pre-pandemic women were 100 years away from achieving overall equality, economic, political and education equality. Today, the world economic forum puts us at 136 years. The question is what does that mean for businesses, our economy, and quality of life for everyone in our communities? The full participation of women in our workforce and our leadership landscape is a socio-economic imperative.
The Ottawa Business Growth Survey has identified talent as a top issue for the last several years and the recent Ontario Economic Survey released by the Ontario Chamber confirms labour shortages are impacting business confidence in most industries. The value of women in decision-making is understood. Yet, we continue to see low numbers of women in corporate and political leadership roles. And women entrepreneurs continue to face low access to capital, especially in equity deserving populations.
The bottom line is that businesses and communities cannot afford to let these trends continue. The Ottawa Board of Trade is dedicated to representing our business community as a key and equal partner with all levels of government and our economic stakeholders. The city we build to foster business success is the same city well positioned to make great strides in meeting our equity, diversity, and inclusivity goals. One cannot be achieved without the other.
What’s a business to do?
Name it. Ensure your team understands the current landscape in terms of gender equality, the impact and potential outcomes for advancing women in the workplace. Real commitment will inspire change, and deep consideration must be paid to systemic change. Keep the conversation going by promoting your plan, each accomplishment, and opportunities for engagement.
Embrace equity. What we are doing is not working. An equitable future requires the same rigorous policies and performance measures that drive traditional business results. Explore new ways of working that prioritize diversity and inclusion. Invest heavily in the areas where you may require expertise, training, and recognition. Identify the expected outcomes and leave room to discover the unexpected ones. Open source your best practices.
Optimize resources. There are many complimentary and low-cost opportunities to support your EDI goals. Define one or two that you can start now.
Accept challenges like the 50/30 challenge driven by the Government of Canada.
Access tools like Ontario Chamber Webinars and the new Canadian Chamber Playbook.
Adopt the themes and ideas launched annually like #EmbraceEquity from International Woman’s Day and the GoC IWD theme, Every Woman Counts.
Apply for awards programs like Best Places to Work or the Best Ottawa Business Awards.
Attend local events like our upcoming CEO Talk with Colette Watson, International Women’s Day hosted by Elevate International or the many community wide events found in the IWW calendar hosted by Invest Ottawa.
What your local Board of Trade can do
The Ottawa Board of Trade has formed an EDI Council for the purpose of integrating EDI in our corporate culture, supporting our members to do the same, and finding new opportunities to support businesses owned by equity deserving entrepreneurs. We are advocates for EDI leadership in Ottawa as an economic driver. We committed to the 50-30 challenge with unanimous board support and have achieved our targets for diversity at the board and senior leadership level.
We work closely with our colleagues at the Ontario and Canadian Chambers to move the needle on policies and programs that support the advancement of women and our equity, diversity, and inclusion goals. We continue to advocate for a competitive business environment and refer to the Ontario Chamber She-Covery Project for identifying key priorities.
We wish you a successful International Women’s Day on March 8th and beyond. We look forward to the day arrives that we are living in a truly equitable world and our businesses and communities are realizing our full potential. Together, we will.
Yours in prosperity, Sueling
President & CEO | Ottawa Board of Trade
About the Ottawa Board of Trade
The Ottawa Board of Trade is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan member driven business association. We are the voice of business and a key advocate for economic growth in our Nation’s Capital. Our mission is to cultivate a thriving world class business community in Ottawa by influencing economic development through leadership and partnerships. One that drives affordable, inclusive, sustainable city-building. We represent businesses at all three levels of government and support business growth through relevant benefits and programs.