March 6, 2012

On CBC today an exchange between Kevin O’Leary and Amanda Lang about Europe’s recent efforts to improve the presence of women in corporate boardrooms reminded me that women still have a long way to go.

An article by Tavia Grant in the Globe and Mail revealed that women remain dramatically underrepresented in boardrooms across the developed world. A debate has been resurrected whether or not forced or voluntary measures to diversify boards should be implemented. However, it is quite clear that voluntary measures have failed dramatically.

So where do we really stand?

It seems that the same old arguments are alive. The old boys network, a woman’s needs, men have more experience and women do not play a dominant role in business. This reminds me of a good friend who pointed out to me that the reason the Catholic Church never changes its intractable views on women is because the church is run entirely by men. It took me a long time to fully appreciate why change never seems to happen with the role women play in the Catholic Church.

Mother Nature doesn’t help either because women must endure a long and sometimes uncomfortable period of pregnancy, give birth and take time off from their jobs. Having a family means a whole different thing for women than for men. Do women have to give up a family to be as successful in business as men?

And, no matter how much progress we have made, women are still expected to play a dominant role in child rearing and housework. This bothers me because women have to work considerably harder than many men because they automatically assume the responsibility of the children as well as their careers.

I don’t want this to sound feminist because that is not who I am. I am a mother as well as a successful businesswoman in a field dominated by men – credit and credit counselling.

What I find particularly frustrating is how I am always fighting men – business men. Even though people like Anne Mulcahy, former chairman and chief executive officer of Xerox Corp. and a director at Johnson & Johnson Co., Target Corp. and Washington Post Co say, “We’re long past having to defend or explain why women should be on boards, given all the data that shows how companies with female as well as male directors perform better.” We are not there yet.

International Women’s Day is one day in the year when the world stops to respect women and their economic, political and social achievements. There is much to celebrate on March 8th. Let us enjoy the moment. We have come a long way even though our fight for equality and fairness is long from over.

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