Beyond Words:

Taking Year-Round Action for Women in the Workplace

By Rhianna Brancato, Vice President Finance | Published: March 2, 2024 in Blog

Around this time of year, my news feeds become inundated with marketing from companies declaring their support for their female workers, in anticipation of International Women’s Day. As I read those posts, part of me is always disappointed that such statements remain necessary. Although I realize that this comment isn’t novel, the reality is that annual posts like these or broad declarations of support for female workers from companies are not enough. Instead, it is the actions taken year-round, and the actual decisions made by corporations and their leadership teams to uphold equality for female colleagues that do matter.

My hope is that the next generation of women enter the workforce without facing discrimination – because we have truly reached a place of inclusiveness. I am not naïve to the fact that I am writing in Canada, and my perspectives and suggestions are focused on the Canadian corporate world, which may not be representative of women globally. But from where I sit, Canada still isn’t perfect – and you have to start somewhere!

As previously stated, support for female workers does not just mean broad company statements. It is also not just corporate policies on protected leave, anti-discrimination, or other areas. While those things are needed, from my experience it is the daily interactions that really impact a women’s career. Let me elaborate.

There are many common occurrences that can negatively impact the day to day working life of women. Those could be small things such as casual pet names from older males (sweetie, honey), mansplaining information (even when the female is the expert), or larger things like being actively “cat-called” in a workplace, or having your appearance openly commented on during meetings or presentations.  All these actions single out women for something unrelated to their skills, knowledge, or capabilities. They have also all happened to me.

And yet, I consider myself lucky. Not lucky enough to get through a career without some form of discrimination, but lucky because when those moments happened to me, I have had male colleagues stand-up for me and call out the poor behaviour to combat the discrimination I was facing. Because of that support, I continued to be motivated in my career and have not been derailed from continuing to seek leadership positions.

Instead, the support I’ve received makes me excited to be part of leadership teams that promote environments where discrimination is not accepted. I want to be a part of teams that continue to build workplaces where the next generation of women never have to have those experiences.  For me that means also committing to actively support others through my own actions, such as;

  • Judging team members based on their on-the-job capabilities and performance – appearance and gender are not part of the equation.
  • Hiring based on job related competencies, experience, and work ethic – full stop.
  • Giving credit where credit is due – ensuring that hard work and exceptional performance of team members is credited back to them.
  • Allowing everyone on the team a chance to have their voice heard. The medium could vary – larger meetings, 1:1, asynchronously – but if someone has a thought that could help us perform better, I want to know.

Women can support and be inclusive of each other – but that is not enough.  It takes the support of our male colleagues, specifically those in leadership positions, to do more than just make public announcements once a year but to actively embody it year-round. Unless our colleagues (read: male colleagues) are also committing to this support we are not going to get to a point where we can retire International Women’s Day. From my experience that support goes a long way to encourage women to continue seeking leadership roles within corporations. We all need to stop accepting someone being singled out for reasons unrelated to work competencies and continue welcoming the voice, opinions, and expertise of everyone on the team.

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