Inclusiveness, Gender Based: Top 5 reasons why this Dude is now an advocate

 In Career, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Personal Development, Professional Development, TOP 5

Today is Monday November the 7th.
According to my agenda it is time to start writing my blog for November, so that is what I am doing.
There is also a note in my agenda reminding me that 7 years ago today my Mom passed away.
I had chosen this topic a couple of weeks ago and at the time, I was not aware of the connection.
Interesting because I think that there is a connection between the two.
I think that I have only recently become aware of it.
I have a funny feeling that my Mom is going to end up in the top 5 list of this blog.
Although there are other women who have had an influence on me in relation to this topic, I think that I will dedicate this blog to my Mom.

I started what I term my education on inclusion and the power of inclusion several years ago.
It started harmlessly enough.
My employer had changed the name of one of their CXO positions.
The Chief Diversity Officer was rebranded the Chief Inclusion Officer.
Tomato vs Tomatoe? F**k, who cares? were my first reactions.
Then one day while chatting with one of my colleagues, who just happened to be the chief of staff to the new Chief Inclusion Officer, I learned that there was indeed a difference.
Her passion for the topic was contagious and I guess she connected with the accountant in me by sharing (more like bombarding me) with a bunch of studies that indicated a pretty impressive correlation between diversity and corporate profitability.
I will spare you the details on the studies but they are quite compelling.
You just have to do a google search and you will see what I mean.
That got me thinking.

Why, I asked, were organizations not hiring and promoting more women if the business case were so compelling?
She responded by mentioning to me that inclusion was not just limited to including more women, it included, including (pardon the pun) people with all sorts of diverse backgrounds and experiences.
People from different countries and cultures, different age groups, different personalities, different strengths etc.

Different? I prefer the term complimentary. 🙂
The logic behind promoting diversity being that organizations would benefit from a broader and more holistic leadership and workforce, one that has access to more ideas, options, solutions etc.
One that is more aligned with the ultimate company customers and members of society with whom they interact with, who are, by the way, also becoming more diverse.
Hence the logic behind the change in the name of the CXO title.

The logic made sense to me. I was hooked.
I wanted to explore and see how I could make a difference through the CXO programs that oversaw as a program director.
After all, I have a daughter, who at the time was about 7 years old, and I wanted her to grow up in a world where she had the same opportunities as her brother.

But where to start?
At that time, I was the program director of the CFO Program at my firm.
I had an idea. Analytics was quite hot these days. I would do some analytics of my own.
We had an offering in our program in which we helped a CFO transition into their new role and/or organization.
I would start tracking how many were women.
I like quizzes so I would share the results via a quiz.
My opportunity came around when I was asked to address our newly promoted managers.
The Chief Diversity Officer and her chief of staff would be in the audience.
I was also asked to speak with a group of women leaders in my home town of Montreal.
I would quiz them as well. Multiple choice.
How did they do?
How did the audience at the manager training do?
How did the Chief Diversity Officer and her chief of staff do?
Not great.
Almost no one got the answer right.
For confidentiality reasons, I don’t feel comfortable sharing the exact number but it was low.
It was pretty discouraging.
Lots of work still to do in the finance space.

Other spaces as well it turns out.
Someone in the audience at the new manager training stood up and speculated that if we did the same exercise for Chief Information Officers, it would be even more depressing.
Although this was a small sample size, there are other “analytics” out there that tend to tell the same story and across the C-suite and other executive and management positions.
It also appears to be pervasive across all types of organizations as well; Not-for-Profit, Government, Education etc.

Oh, and guess what?
There seems to be some gender bias towards men in some areas as well.
One of my former colleagues recently educated me on that front via her recent blog / post.
In this case, it was around the Human Resources function and talent.
According to her post, “approximately 70 to 80 percent of HR roles are held by women in the US, Canada and the UK.”
Maybe that explains why I often felt like I was the only Dude working on many of the leadership development initiatives at my former employer.
I often was 🙂
Maybe that explains why I am often one of the few Dudes in many of my coaching courses.
The only Dude in my peer coaching group.
We are trying to at least rectify the lack of inclusion on the peer coaching group front.
MY coach has even provided a few potential names, of Dudes, to join us (Thanks Shawna 🙂 )

Speaking of quizzes.
I was chatting with a colleague of mine recently and I mentioned to her that I had come across an article in USA Today that was predicting when men and women would be on parity.
She had seen the article but did not remember how many years it was that they were predicting.
When she politely asked if I would remind her, I of course had a quiz question teed up.
Are you ready for this one?
Here you go…
According to that article which referenced the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report
In how many years will women earn as much as men and account for half the world’s bosses?

  1. A) Less than 25
  2. B) Less than 50
  3. C) Less than 100
  4. D) Less than 150
  5. E) Less than 200

Drum roll please.
The correct answer is at the end of this blog. See below
It is nasty!

FYI. Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden claim the top four spots on the ranking for gender equity.
The United States failed to crack the top 25, ranking a dismal 45th place, a 17-spot slide from last year.
Canada was 35th.
The worst prospects for women reside in the Middle East and North Africa, the study found.

At first I was quite shocked. By the number. I was not sure I believed it.
Just to remind my readers. I live in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Apparently, there are differences between my country and those of others.
Some pretty nasty ones.
I am feeling as if I have been leading a bit of a sheltered life, I have been.
Good reminder. I am a lot more grateful than I was before.
The oversight was a bit embarrassing, i.e. not thinking of other countries and cultures, while researching to write a blog on inclusion 🙁

Anyways, when I dug further into the research and the countries that were represented I started to get a better sense of the challenge.
A real challenge for organizations who operate and rely on a global talent and customer base.
Seems more complicated than I had thought.
That is a long time to wait until parity. A bit discouraging.
On the bright side, though, those numbers are based on assumptions and projections,
both of which are subject to change, subject to influence.
What if more people started taking a more proactive role in this regards?
And I don’t mean just women.
What about men?
Speaking of Canada and speaking about men.
Our new prime minister surprised many of us, at least me, when he introduced the first Cabinet in Canadian history to be split 50:50 between men and women.

The question is why would men want to help women in this regards?
We are pretty busy these days? You have read the articles; we are being bombarded by emails and increasing levels of complexity in our lives, etc. etc. etc.
The increased productivity in the workforce and corporate profitability are great if you are the CEO or a shareholder in the organization but for the rest of us, we have other things that are top of mind.

When I step back and think about it.
Regardless of the profitability study results, as far back as I remember, although I was not a table pounding advocate for the inclusion of women, I certainly did not see any issue with including them.
Why is that?
Am I less of a man than my fellow Martians?
Now that I am more aware, can I be more proactive in helping reduce the number of years to gender parity?
BTW. If you have not taken a peek at the answer below yet. It stood at 170 years (on the 2016 report) 🙁

So, what role do my fellow Martians have to play?
Do they want to play?
Some seem to, others less so and some seem completely dead set against it.

A recent issue of the Harvard Business Review had Diversity as both topic and cover page.
It mentioned that most diversity programs don’t work.
Companies are wasting billions of dollars on them.
There was a list of what worked and what did not.

A colleague of mine, surprise, surprise, another Martian, mentioned to me that some organizations are even moving away from programs and focusing more at the grass roots level, i.e. incorporating the concept in the day to day… leadership training etc.
“Building capabilities” vs. programs as he put it. Getting into the trenches. “Doing the dirty work”.
He also shared with me one of the biggest challenges, “eliminating unconscious gender bias”.
Wow. Dealing with conscious people is intimidating enough at times.
Now you are telling me that we have to tackle the unconscious as well. Yikes.
One last item that resonated with me from our discussion.
He mentioned it, and I have read a lot about it.
The concept of teaming up to make the change.

By teaming, he was referring to Women and Men.
Teaming up instead of going it alone.
As one article that I read put it, instead of Team Women and Team Men. It could be Team Human.
Or maybe we could call it Team Inclusion. 🙂

Interesting concept
I was under the impression, apparently a mistaken one, that gender initiatives were only for women?
By only for women, I mean, leading them and making up the vast majority of the participants and champions.
Of course, men were invited for the “diversity training sessions”, and what dude would not want to attend such a training session, especially if it is mandatory and they have lots of other things to do.
Now that I think of it, I might have heard or seen the term “indoctrination sessions” used by some of my fellow Martians.
Yikes. Some of the initiatives sounded like telling people what to do.
The polar opposite of a coaching approach (my new profession 🙂 ).
Not sure how that is supposed to work?
Also, having a Martian on the diversity team would be like, having someone from another planet on the team. That might be scary for some?

So, there you go, some background and context for why, for this, my sixth blog,
I have chosen this topic to rant about. 🙂
i.e. Gender Based Inclusion: Top 5 reasons why this Dude is now an advocate.

My usual google search approach came up with an interesting article, “Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives: What change agents need to know”.
Wow. I got lucky on that search.
The questions it was trying to answer were very much in line with my search for answers.
For example, the study talked about “how men come to recognize gender bias” which sounds like a good start in developing awareness.
On my coaching calls I keep hearing about how awareness is 9/10 of the solution.
I have still not bought into that number yet, after all, deciding to do something about it and sticking to it, have been in my experience also been very important Change Enablers as well.
Regardless of the actual % breakdown (sorry, once again, the accountant in me) it is hard to downplay the importance of awareness.

Speaking of awareness.
One of my colleagues sent me the link to a short Facebook video that had an interesting statistic on gender bias.
(The link can be found in the reference section of this blog).
Bit of an eye opener as to the impact that gender stereotyping can have on people and their perceptions, especially at a young and impressionable age.
I have included the link below with the rest of the reference material that I have used in this blog in case you want to take a peek.
As a quick summary, a group of school girls were asked to draw a picture of a surgeon, firefighter and fighter pilot and give them a name.
Long story short. There were not too many names and/or pictures of the female gender.
They seemed quite surprised when they were visited by, you guessed it, a real life, surgeon, firefighter and fighter pilot. All of them women.

A statistic that stood out for me during the video was that, apparently, gender stereotypes are defined between the ages of 5-7.

I could not help noticing that most of the bus drivers at my son’s school were women.
There seem to be a lot more women police officers these days.
I enjoyed following our women’s Canadian Soccer team on their Olympic run this summer yet I am not sure that we have a women’s professional soccer team in Montreal.
We do have a men’s team and they are doing quite well. Go Impact go.

Before you knew it. I started to wonder what my daughter would say?
She is 10 years old now.
What if I were to ask her what she thought about the roles of men vs. women?
Were some more suited to one sex versus another?
I decided to ask her the next time I drove her to school and I did.

She kind of thought about the question for a couple of seconds and then mentioned one profession that seemed to be top of mind.
That women could not be professional athletes.
Turns out she aspires to greatness on the soccer turf.
A professional soccer player to be exact.
I reminded her that she had some great role models from the Canadian team and that some played in pro leagues but I could not for the life of me name one team.
I am pretty sure that the financial remuneration was not quite on par with the men if there were any teams.
Just a hunch on the salary front, but I suggested that she might want to look for a part time job as well.
Maybe a couple. 🙂

The good news was that, pro sports aside, no other roles seemed to come to mind for her.
I asked what about police? Bus drivers? Doctors? Lawyers? Accountants?
No, no issues there Dad.
I asked her what made her so sure of that.
She told me that she sees real life female examples of all of the above.
Interesting. Back to role models.

O.k. so back to the study on gender bias and including men in on the change initiative.
What were the top 3 enablers that were identified on getting them on board?
They were:

  1. Defiance of some masculine norms
  2. Having women mentors
  3. A strong sense of fair play

Interesting. How do they apply to me?

Regarding number 1

I would be lying to you if I did not start having a few doubts about my masculinity at some point when I first realized that I was often one of the few dudes in the room.
It was only after dusting off and starting to read a book suggestion from my Mom (Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus) that I realized that yes, I was a Martian.

Hiding out in the man cave, wanting to prove that I can do everything by myself, having a cow every time I was provided with unsolicited advice even if it was provided in a context of caring and sharing.
Seems like I am o.k. on that front.
I get to keep my Martian passport 🙂

Regarding number 2

I have been spoiled by having had the privilege to have worked with many great leaders, role models and mentors.
Both men and women.
Yet when I think back to my formative years, when I first entered the workforce, there were two women who, in hindsight, have had a huge impact on me.

During my first job, straight out of my undergraduate, I was fortunate enough to have landed in an organization where my first boss was also ended up being my mentor.
She had provided me with such an opportunity to learn and grow that when she moved on to another organization, she had prepared me to successfully succeed her.

I got lucky again, this time a little later on in my career.
It was upon graduation from my MBA.
Again, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work closely and under the guidance of another female leader.
And by leader, I don’t mean just the title but someone who I found very inspiring.
Just a reminder that “inspiring” was my #1 selection in my blog on my top 5 traits of a great leader.
She had a huge impact on my career and the path that I have taken.

In this case, this was someone who was breaking a lot of the gender barriers herself as she moved forward in her career.
In hindsight, it seems to have taken a lot of courage and persistency. Kudos to her.
I still remember some of the leadership team meetings in those days.
I remember one in particular.
There were more than 20 people in the room, only 3 of which were women.
That was the norm.

Things seem to have improved since then.
Just yesterday I received some research on the inclusion of women as partners in professional services firms in Canada.
Getting better but women still make up less than 25% of partners in professional services firms (per the CPA Canada business case for advancing women in Leadership study)

So, better than before, but looks like there is still progress to be made.
Oh, and by the way, that partner has become a national service line leader, was managing partner of one of the largest offices in the country and is a member of the board of directors, among other accomplishments.
Not bad 🙂

Although those 2 women had the greatest impact on me, as it turns out, many other women did as well.
There were many other influencers.
My team members from Concordia University in the MBA case competition over twenty years ago.

I was the only dude.

I am grateful to have a vast network of colleagues and peers that I can and do turn to for advice and guidance and to brainstorm ideas and share stories, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Many of them are women.

My life coach, who is also my Mentor coach, is a woman.

Etc. Etc.

And then it occurred to me.
There was a previous role model who I think really played one of the greatest roles in shaping who I am. My mom.
I remember when I turned 16.
My mom dropped by my room to wish me happy birthday.
She had an empty white laundry basket in her hands.
I thanked her for the birthday wishes.
I then reminded her that my dirty clothes were strewn in the corner.
They were not going to wash themselves 🙂
Turns out the laundry basket was a birthday gift.
Supposedly at 16, I was old enough to do my own laundry.
Geez, Thanks Mom. Great Birthday Gift. NOT.

As it turned out, later in my life, it did turn out to be a great gift.
The other gifts as well i.e. the iron, the sewing kit, the pots and pans etc…
The items and more importantly my comfort in using them came in handy.
Came in handy during my 10 or so years when I lived alone.
Later on, as a husband and partner and Dad.
And more recently as a single parent (note: I prefer the term co-parent).
Whether you call it single parent or co-parent, it does not take away from the fact that, until I find my soul mate, the buck stops with me. Cooking, cleaning, homework and mowing the lawn.
If I would like my children to eat healthy, then it helps that I can cook 🙂
Apparently, the pots and pans have come in handy after all.
Besides, my son also likes to cook, with me (in front of a good hockey or football game, of course).
Thanks Mom. 🙂

I guess my sister and brother also got a lot of birthday presents of the same sort.
My sister has been able to focus on her career for over 25 years and counting.
Although she shares non-career related duties with her husband, it is not always easy balancing both while bringing up 2 beautiful daughters at the same time.
My brother, who is also raising 2 beautiful daughters, just finished his stint as a stay at home dad so that his wife could focus on her career and education.
Again, thanks Mom.

All this talk about presents reminds me that the holiday period is fast approaching.
Let’s see.
Should I get Shayne a sewing kit or slow cooker 🙂
Maybe some soccer tickets for Emily.

I just need to find a women’s professional soccer team now.
Hopefully not too far from Montreal. 🙂

Regarding number 3

A strong sense of fair play.
I recently went through an exercise to update (a.k.a. better understand) MY core personal values (a.k.a MY WHO) and guess what?
Honour, Honesty, Transparency … values that I would see aligning with fair play were right up there.
I guess that explains that one.

Oh and, in addition to the top 3 enablers, the study on including men in Diversity initiatives also outlined the top 3 reasons why some men are not on board.

  1. Apathy
  2. Fear
  3. Real and perceived ignorance

Yikes. Those are nasty sounding words 🙁
Those are the challenges. Getting more dudes on board.

What is working?

According to the Harvard study, engagement has a big role to play.
It encourages leaders to “embrace efforts that will get people talking”.
“It’s the human stuff that matters, like hiring diversity managers, who are there to address the culture that currently exists, and diversity task forces, which convene leaders from different departments to diagnose issues and share ideas.”
I will add that “convening” different genders to the task forces might prove helpful as well 🙂

The authors also point out that “where diversity training doesn’t help, leadership skills training does”.
Again, I am assuming that the leadership training is delivered in an integrated way to both men and women and not conducted in 2 separate rooms in some far-off training facility.

The use of mentorship programs also figured prominently in the article and in many of the others that I perused as part of my research for this blog.
According to the author, “Most mentors are white men,” he says, typically two rungs above their protégés. Paired with a person of color or a woman, they’re often meeting people they might not ordinarily get to know.”
Kind of cool. Seems like a win-win approach.
A little upward mentoring going on as well through the exposure perhaps.
Killing two birds with one stone.
Working it bottom up and top down.
Have I shared enough clichés yet? or should I continue? 🙂

Clichés aside, for me, having both male and female role models and mentors have certainly help me out.
And speaking of both genders as roles models, in this case not for me and my fellow Martians,
but for a group of female entrepreneurs who are leading start up organizations in one of the tougher areas to gain traction as a woman, technology.
One of my colleagues, the program manager of an organization whose mandate is removing barriers to the creation and growth of technology companies, recently reached out to her network on linked-in looking for mentors for some of the women entrepreneurs that her organization is supporting.

Guess what, she was reaching out to BOTH women and men. 🙂 Kudos to her.

One final thought before I take a crack at my top 5 list.
My understanding is that although we are equals, we are different.
Although I am only half way through the “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” book,
I am starting to realize that is certainly the case, through my lens at least.

It has become apparent to me that we have our own gender based strengths and shortcomings.
I believe that we will be more successful and fulfilled in our pursuits by complementing each other.
Cool.  Hey Mom, thanks for the book recommendation.
Took me a while to read it.
But like a lot of the other things that I have gotten around to in my life recently,
better late than never 🙂

O.k. I’m done.
So, hear they are.
My top 5 reasons.
Top 5 inspirations would be a better term.
When it comes to the topic of Gender Based Inclusiveness:
These are the “Top 5 reasons why this Dude is now an advocate”.

  1. My children. I would like both my daughter and son to have equal access to all the opportunities that they may want to pursue during their lives no matter what those may turn out to be i.e. Professional soccer player, police officer, mad scientist, interior decorator, stay at home mom or dad, spending quality time with their children, traveling the world etc.
  2. My Mom. When I treat women as my peers and colleagues and collaborators I can’t help but feel as If I am honouring my Mom at the same time.
  3. MY Family and Friends. They have been role models as well. They have encouraged me and they continue to encourage and support me, both in my role as single parent and entrepreneur.
  4. My Female and Male colleagues. My friend that I highlighted earlier, the chief of staff to the Chief Inclusion Officer. She has moved on to another role. So, I reached out to the person who she used to report up to the other day to continue my discussions on this topic. I connected with that person earlier this week and guess what. He is a dude, and he is equally as passionate in this space. How cool is that. J
  5. ME, MYSELF and I. As I explained above. Given my upbringing, my values, my network of people. It is just natural for me. Studies and statistics aside, intuitively, it just makes sense.

So. Sounds like I have the awareness stuff down cold.
What about taking action.
What can I do to help the cause?
Am I going to personally change the world?
Am I going to personally lower the 170 year mark?
I am naïve, but not that naïve.
I might not have that kind of impact alone but I can do my bit.
Even something as simple as being a role model for my children.
BY inspiring my clients, my audiences and my network through my stories.
By partnering with my clients in helping empower them to overcome any of the challenges that they may face in this area and then encouraging them to pay it forward.

If each and everyone of us were to come up with a few ways that they too could become champions and role models for change, there is no doubt in my mind that the 170 year number would not stand a chance 🙂
What will you do?

Oh, and by the way. Thank you, Mom. I love you 🙂

Well. That’s all folks

Oops…. I almost forgot the quiz question
The correct answer is E) Less than 200
More precisely, about 170 years from now 🙂



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What would that change be?


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References used in composing this BLOG

Primary school children reveal reality of gender stereotyping. You Tube Video    


Engaging Men In Gender Initiatives: What Change Agents Need to Know. Catalyst


170 years from now, women will earn as much as men. USA Today


World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for 2016. World Economic Forum.


The Future Belongs to the Bold. Deloitte

link to the-future-belongs-to-the-bold-new.html


Should we be striving for gender parity in HR? Linked-in post. Lenore MacAdam   


Advancing Women in Leadership: Business Case Q&A. CPA Canada


Why Diversity Programs fail. Harvard Business Review    

Why corporate diversity programs fail and what to do about it. Canadian Business


Why corporate diversity programs fail.


Why Trudeaus gender balanced cabinet matters. Canadian Business

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