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Women in the workplace

Grace Saris (left), manager of VanCity Credit Union in Mission, and Angela Kaiser, board chair of Prospera Credit Union, discuss Gender Equality in Business Decisions at the Business and Professional Women
Grace Saris (left), manager of VanCity Credit Union in Mission, and Angela Kaiser, board chair of Prospera Credit Union, discuss Gender Equality in Business Decisions at the Business and Professional Women's Club of Mission on Jan. 10. The third member of the panel was Shelley Besse (not pictured), president of Envision Financial.
— image credit: Carol Aun

Women represent just 11 per cent of board members on companies listed on the S&P/TSX composite index, according to a 2013 report by TD Economics.

And Canada is falling behind other countries when it comes to putting women on corporate boards, Heather Stewart, president of the local Business and Professional Women's (BPW) Club of Mission, said at a luncheon last week.

The successful efforts of incorporating gender equality at three local credit unions were highlighted last week during a panel discussion hosted by the BPW.

The three-member panel made up of Grace Saris, manager of VanCity Credit Union, Shelley Besse, president of Envision Financial, and Angela Kaiser, board chair of Prospera Credit Union, discussed women in their organizations, but Stewart believes the session only scratched the surface of the issue.

The panel members shared insight into their company's corporate structure and all noted there are an equal number of women, compared to men, on their respective boards and management teams.

To get the right people serving, Prospera does a gap analysis to see what's missing, said Kaiser, adding that the right skills and a similar culture match for the organization comes first before gender equality.

Besse suggested a company that is looking for a woman to be a part of the board, should find recommendations from the community first. Organizations could help women develop certain qualities they are looking for, offered Saris.

The panel also talked about how to engage younger women.

"Actively reach out to women," said Kaiser, noting a lot of people are not involved because they have never been asked.

"The corporate executive women who appeared on our panel had many years of experience in the financial sector and are part of this 11 per cent," said Stewart. "However, all companies need to do more to encourage women to seek corporate or high level management positions."

Companies can help by providing professional development opportunities for all employees and flexible work hours when possible, suggested Stewart.

Stewart also encouraged more companies to learn more about the Women's Empowerment Principles and sign the document.

The principles were developed in partnership with United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and United Nations Global Compact to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.

The principles are:

• Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality

• Treat all women and men fairly at work-respect and support human rights and nondiscrimination

• Ensure the health, safety and well being of all women and men workers

• Promote education, training and professional development for women

• Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women

• Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy

• Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality

To find out more about BPW, visit bpwmission.ca.

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