Evidence of meeting #27 for Status of Women in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was women.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Tracy Redies  President and Chief Executive Officer, Coast Capital Savings Credit Union
  • Ellen Moore  Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Chubb Insurance Company of Canada
  • Jocelyne Michelle Coulibaly  Representative for the Ottawa Region, Board of Representatives, Fédération de la jeunesse franco-ontarienne
  • Geneviève Latour  Programming Manager, Fédération de la jeunesse franco-ontarienne

3:30 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Irene Mathyssen

I call this meeting of the status of women committee to order.

I'll begin by telling committee members that we do have materials from Plan Canada. Does the committee wish to circulate the material? It's only in English, but I've asked the official opposition if there is any concern about it not being translated into French.

Is it the wish of the committee to have that material distributed? Yes? Are there any objections? Seeing none, our clerk will make sure that you receive it electronically.

Second, each member of the committee has received a calendar for the months of April and May and for some things in June. Would you please take time to review the calendar? We have a very busy schedule planned for the next couple of months. I would appreciate it if you were to be familiar with the calendar.

At this point, it's my pleasure to welcome Tracy Redies, the president and chief executive officer of Coast Capital Savings Credit Union, and Ellen Moore, president and chief executive officer of Chubb Insurance Company of Canada.

It's wonderful to have you here. We appreciate very much your agreeing to be part of the work of this committee.

Let's begin with Ms. Redies, please, for 10 minutes.

3:30 p.m.

Tracy Redies President and Chief Executive Officer, Coast Capital Savings Credit Union

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Ladies and gentlemen of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to provide my comments on the subject of improving economic prospects for Canadian girls. I hope my comments will be helpful as you continue the study of this important issue.

Although I'm not an expert in the field, as a woman and a mother of three girls and one boy and a business leader, I have some experience to draw from. As CEO of Canada's second-largest credit union, where 72% of our workforce is made up of women, I feel strongly that all levels of our organization should reflect the composition of our workforce and our community.

Last year Coast Capital was named the top organization in Canada by Catalyst for the highest percentage of women in senior executive roles in Canada, with 70% of our executives being women. It's also worth noting that 40% of our board directors and 45% of our leaders below the senior executive are women. We've done this not only because it's the right thing to do, but also because it makes good business sense to have diverse teams.

With that context in mind, I'd like to focus on four areas that I believe are important in improving the prospects of young women in Canada, namely education, financial literacy, internships, and business leadership. Again, coming from an organization that values all types of diversity, I believe my suggestions are applicable not only for young women but also young men in Canadian society.

Starting with education and my own experience, having lived and been educated in three countries, I can say that there is nothing more vital than a strong education for the advancement of young women. While our education system has done great things for our country, I believe strongly that we need to do more to position our young women for success in the 21st century.

Much has been said about the need for greater focus on math and sciences, particularly for young women in high school, and I agree with this position. That said, I believe we're also missing an opportunity to prepare our youth to compete in what will be a radically changed world economic order.

The rise of east and south Asia and Latin America as global economic powerhouses is no longer a possibility; it is a given. Canada, with its rich cultural heritage and historical and increasing ties to Asia, has huge potential to thrive in this new world order, yet our education system, in my experience, has not been sufficiently flexible to recognize and capitalize on this changing tide.

With four children in the school system, I have been concerned that our curriculum, at least in B.C., has not changed substantially in 30 years. History and languages are still oriented toward our European heritage, yet more than 27% of British Columbians were born outside Canada, and more than half of those came from Asia or the Middle East.

We are competing against countries like Australia, where children have the ability to learn Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, and Japanese starting at much earlier ages than when Canadian children typically start to learn a second language. Our history courses typically focus on Europe, and while To Kill a Mockingbird is a wonderful novel, which most people in this room probably studied in grade 10, why are we not looking at the rich cultural and historical literature of countries like China, India, and Japan?

In short, our education system, which should offer the perfect opportunity for young women to learn and think globally, is too narrow in its focus. If we are to prepare Canadian youth to capitalize on the new global realities, our curricula will have to change to reflect those realities. We need to encourage and offer more opportunities for young people to live and learn abroad, we need Canadian curricula to be broader and offer second-language opportunities earlier, and we need to comprehensively expose our children to the history, culture, and economies of the new world. As Canada's population changes and becomes more diverse, this type of education will benefit our children at home and abroad.

I'd like to turn now to my second area of focus, which is again in the realm of education, but in the arena of financial literacy. I was very pleased to see the federal government's focus on financial literacy for Canadians. Given the historical debt loads of Canadians and a volatile world, this is an important topic, and one that all Canadians should be concerned about.

Today we should be educating both women and men to be financially literate at younger ages and to understand the opportunities and pitfalls of finance. They should understand the benefits of saving early, budgeting, and the appropriate use of credit. While financial institutions and other worthy organizations, such as Junior Achievement, have provided some support, given Canadian debt loads and our generally inadequate preparation for retirement, my sense is we're not consistently teaching financial literacy at an early enough age.

As women still tend to be secondary income earners in general, it is crucial that we teach them how to be financially literate and financially independent from an early age.

Turning to youth internship and leadership experiences, I believe this is also a vital way that businesses and governments can help young women develop the leadership, team-playing, networking, and public speaking skills that are critical tools in whatever career paths they choose.

At Coast, our community leadership strategy is to build a richer future for youth in our communities, and this targets youth aged 13 to 24. It's not just about donating money to non-profits; we believe we have an obligation to help the youth in our communities gain leadership and business experience.

We have a wonderful program that I believe is unique in Canada. It annually gives 25 to 30 grade 11 and grade 12 students training in financial services and leadership experience. Through the Coast community youth team program, these students train and work in our branches, but they also help organize and participate in Coast community events. This gives them not only valuable work skills, but also public speaking and leadership experience at an early age.

We have had over 300 students graduate from the program. Several alumni are now full-time employees at Coast in various roles, while others have gone on to pursue careers that require strong financial knowledge and skills. We've also recently introduced a youth advisory council to help deliberate on and allocate a portion of our Community Giving dollars. At Coast we donate 7% of our budgeted pre-tax profit to the communities in which we operate; over $22 million has been invested by Coast over the last five years, so the dollars that are being allocated are quite significant.

The youth council has to carefully analyze proposals to ensure they fit with our giving objectives. Even though this program is new, the feedback on it has been overwhelmingly positive. The participants gain knowledge on business philanthropy and the important role it plays in developing communities. They also gain critical thinking and analysis skills.

Other companies and governments can also help support young girls and boys by sponsoring youth programs or developing their own in-house youth initiatives.

Finally, my fourth area of focus is business leadership. It's important that we help young girls build their self-esteem, encourage them to aim higher in their career choices, and pursue higher education, but we also need to change so that women can better thrive in the workplace. If we don't make significant changes now and help remove the barriers many young women face in the workplace, they will see a disconnect between their expectations and reality and end up being discouraged early in their careers.

Today, as I think we all know, it's still very hard for women to reach the C-suite. While women have made some progress, we still have a long way to go in reaching parity with men. According to a Catalyst survey, women head up only 6% of Canada's Financial Post 500 companies, and, astoundingly, more than 30% of Canadian companies had zero female officers in 2010.

This may be partly due to the continuance of the glass ceiling; however, more and more I honestly believe that many capable young women are opting out before reaching their full potential in their careers because the workplace is not meeting their expectations, either in terms of providing stimulating, meaningful work environments or in enabling them to balance other important aspects of their lives. Business leaders need to change this.

As an industry that employs a large female cohort, credit unions have been very supportive in developing women. While the large Canadian banks have yet to have a woman in their top position, three of the largest five credit unions in Canada have a female CEO, and the CEO of Canada's largest cooperative financial institution is also a very capable woman.

Why is this? Credit unions were created on the principle of members helping members, with a deep-rooted belief in inclusiveness and diversity in the workplace. At Coast this is certainly true. Our employee commitment is to change the way employees feel about work forever, just as our business purpose is to change the way Canadians feel about banking forever. We are very committed to fostering an innovative work environment where everyone can achieve success, regardless of gender, culture, or age.

We also offer very supportive programs to make it easier for our staff to balance work and life challenges. Such programs include wellness programs, flexible work schedules, and return-to-work schedules for those coming back from parental or personal leaves. All of these initiatives are necessary to ensure a diverse workforce that will be engaged and able to do their best.

I'd like to close with the following comments: as government and business leaders, it's important that we create environments where young women can gain the necessary skill sets for the 21st century and thrive in this new economic order. We can do more to help support young women through earlier, creative internships and business experiences that help build self-confidence and skills. Finally, we must look at ways to remove barriers that prevent women from contributing at all levels of our society.

I'd like to thank the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women for the opportunity to comment on the economic prosperity of young women, and I look forward to reading the final report when it's completed.

Thank you.

3:40 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Irene Mathyssen

Thank you very much, Ms. Redies. I must say thank you to credit unions across this country for the support they've given to women. It's very important.

Now we will go to Ms. Moore for 10 minutes.

3:40 p.m.

Ellen Moore Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Chubb Insurance Company of Canada

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Good afternoon. It's an honour to be before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. As indicated, I am the chair, president, and CEO of the Chubb Insurance Company of Canada. In Canada, Chubb is a private property and casualty insurance company. We have four offices across the country and we employ 420 staff in those offices.

We usually fall around 350th on the Financial Post 500 list. We have about $2.5 billion under asset management, and our top-line revenue was $670 million at the end of last year, so that gives you a little perspective on the size of the firm.

We serve clients through a broker distribution channel, and it's in three specialty areas: the higher net worth personal lines business; executive liability products, which are things like directors' and officers' insurance; and commercial property and casualty business. We're part of the Chubb Corporation, which is one of the world's largest property and casualty organizations. As Ms. Redies mentioned, we're also a proud recipient of the Catalyst Award, which we received several years ago for our work in the advancement of executive female talent within the organization.

To also give you a little perspective about what I'm sharing with you and hoping to contribute, I am currently a permanent resident in Canada, having arrived in 2004 to assume the job of just president and CEO; the chairmanship was added two years later. I'm in the process of applying for Canadian citizenship, which I'm very hopeful of obtaining.

I began working with Chubb while I was still in university. At that time probably about 10% of the university population were women in my training class. The company, as an insurance company, has a reputation for fairness, integrity, and inclusion, all of which are attributes that serve a diverse set of constituents at the staff, client, and importantly, community service level, so my comments to the committee are around my leadership positions within my company and my community.

My experiences involving the development of women are varied, and they also include being the mother of two young adult daughters.

I have been a past member of our corporation's women's development council, which is now 25 years old. It was established to be certain that women at Chubb were receiving the right developmental opportunities to advance into senior positions at the firm. Our company has been an early adopter of the idea of improving business results through the engagement of all talent available, so we found it very logical to retain, develop, and promote the best talent in our industry by creating development programs specifically geared toward women so that we would have them ready in equal numbers to their male counterparts to enter into management ranks.

Management at Chubb is encouraging the promotion of the current mission of the council, which exists today, and I'm now an adviser to that council. The mission is “reach up, reach out, and reach down”, and to work with women within the company, within our industry, and with the communities we serve to support women at all levels.

In addition to our internal organizations, I have had the opportunity in various capacities to work with women's leadership groups across Canada and the U.S. A hallmark of our company is to be an active participant in the communities we serve through philanthropy and charitable giving. I've had the distinct pleasure of being personally involved in, and involving others in, leadership in important Canadian organizations. Some of these are specific to the development of young women leaders. They include Junior Achievement, which is in the classroom at the middle and high school level, and I've been involved in the development of executive talent in other organizations as well.

Each organization continues to be concerned that not enough progress has been made to have women positioned for larger jobs in the area of their expertise. Women are not advancing at numbers anywhere close to those of men, leaving us with less diverse management across all sectors of academia, business, and government.

There is research that suggests initiatives have stalled or reached a plateau. It is particularly acute in industry: women are graduating in equal percentages from commerce and MBA programs at university, but by the time they should be ready for executive or senior positions in their area, there still appears to be a pipeline issue.

Both our corporation in Canada and the global corporation, as I have indicated, have been very active with Catalyst, the global research firm, for many years. I sit on the Canadian advisory board of Catalyst, and as I believe Ms. Redies was suggesting, on March 8 of this year the most recent consensus on women's positioning on boards and in senior leadership was released, indicating little positive movement has been attained in the advancement of female representation. Catalyst is one of several organizations, including government agencies, reviewing how to produce better outcomes, so I'm quite pleased that this is on the status of women committee's agenda.

My work with the Women's Leadership Board at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University suggests some progress is being made in academia and in governments across the globe, but is still surprisingly low, considering it is 2012. Chubb is also a supporter of Carleton University's women in public policy initiative and its leadership curriculum for improving skills for public service. While this program is gender neutral, there are advocacy and development initiatives for women in public service that are specific.

In Toronto I am currently chairing the International Women's Forum. This is a global network of women across practices, geographies, and demographics who support one another. It has an annual fellowship program for the development of mid-level women for the next big position in their field, and the Toronto chapter is also piloting work in the area of pipeline creation for women on boards of directors.

While I do not have the same level of prescription that Ms. Redies offered, I certainly support the four areas she identifies. I do believe we have to continue to improve education in our elementary and secondary school systems in both genders. Financial literacy is a key of one of the organizations that I'm a part of, Junior Achievement, and it is bringing that curriculum into the classroom.

I also believe we need programming for young girls and high school-level and university-level women that is specific to the unique positions in their careers as they balance family and other choices that are unique to them as a gender.

In sum, while the statistics are not yet showing in the corporate executive suite or the boardroom, I think a great number of areas in education and government are continuing to look at this issue, and much optimism is to be expected.

I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today; I look forward to answering any questions you may have.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Irene Mathyssen

Thank you very much, Ms. Moore, and thank you for the work you do to help and support women.

We'll begin our first round of seven minutes.

Ms. Truppe, go ahead, please.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Susan Truppe London North Centre, ON

Thank you very much.

I would like to thank you both for taking time out of your busy schedules today to visit with us to give us these very insightful presentations. I'd also like to commend you for the work you do with both youth and women.

I was also happy to hear both of you mention Junior Achievement. I am a former Junior Achiever, so I think it's a great program for youth.

I have a two-part question for both of you. The focus of our committee's study is prospects for Canadian girls with regard to economic prosperity, economic participation, and economic leadership, as well as to determine what changes can be made by Status of Women to its approach in improving them.

Tracy and Ellen, you've both accomplished so much to get where you are. You must have had to clear a lot of hurdles to be where you are. Could each of you tell us what you had to overcome to get to the positions that you're in, and what focus Status of Women should be trying in order to improve the economic participation, prosperity, and leadership of girls in Canada?

We could start with you, Tracy.

3:50 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Coast Capital Savings Credit Union

Tracy Redies

Thank you. Can everyone hear me all right?

Let me think. I've been in financial services for about 23 years now, and it's hard to believe it's been that long. I said to one of the members that it's not the years but the mileage that gets you.

I obviously have worked in a very male-dominated industry. I was with HSBC for 20 years prior to coming to the credit unions. People ask me this question of what challenges I've faced, but in general, I've had a fairly supportive career in my life. HSBC was very good in terms of providing mentorship, I think recognizing at an early age that I had a lot of drive and desire to continue to move up in the organization. I was quite fortunate in that regard.

I was also brought up in a family in which both my brother and my sisters were told they could do anything they wanted as long as we worked hard, so I really never had the mentality that I couldn't get ahead.

That said, I think men and women do things differently in the workplace. I think one of the challenges a lot of women have—I experienced this too, learning—is that they have a tendency to believe that if they do something and they do well, these things will be noticed and they'll get ahead. The reality is that's not always the case.

I think probably most of us have learned in our careers that networking is a very important aspect of corporate advancement. I don't know how to teach that; I think it's something you start to learn over time.

The other thing, too, that was helpful for me is that I did work on some very important initiatives with the bank at an early age—the diversity committee, etc. I took on projects nobody else wanted to do, so I guess that helped. I do believe I probably worked harder; I probably had to make more trade-offs in many respects.

I think that's actually an important point that gets missed here. For any man or woman today to get to the C-suite, to be successful in a career, you're talking about trade-offs of time with family or other pursuits, etc. I mentioned in my comments—and I've really seen this in my last three years with the credit union—that part of the challenge today is that a lot of capable women are opting out earlier than their potential should suggest. Frankly, they don't think it's worth it to put in the time and to make the trade-offs.

At the end of the day, you work hard and you work long hours in whatever field you choose to do. You have to believe that what you're doing is meaningful; it makes sense for you, and you're part of something larger, part of a purpose.

This was one of the reasons we at Coast took on a purpose to change the way Canadians feel about banking forever. It was something lofty and aspirational that all of our staff could get behind, something about which they could feel that they could make a difference. I think that's actually one of the keys for progressive organizations going forward.

We don't have any special diversity programs at Coast, yet we have one of the best, most diverse workforces in terms of women and boards in the country. Again, there are no special diversity programs; what we have is a desire to make sure we have an inclusive environment where everybody can bring their best to work and be part of something they believe in. I think progressive organizations going forward have to think like this if they are going to try to attract more women at the top.

Women, I think, actually have more to give up, whether it's family or other things. There are more expectations that they will give that up.

It's a bit of a convoluted answer. Again, I've made trade-offs over my life that I felt were appropriate. I had two daughters early on—three daughters now—and I want to make sure they understand that you can have a family and a career at the same time. I worked very hard for it, but I'm not sure if every woman would do what I did.

At the end of the day, if we want to continue to attract women and retain top talent, we need to provide workplaces that make it easy for them both to contribute and to manage family and other personal interests.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Susan Truppe London North Centre, ON

Thank you very much.

Ellen, could you answer the same question on the hurdles you faced?

3:55 p.m.

Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Chubb Insurance Company of Canada

Ellen Moore

Thank you.

I certainly would second just about everything Tracy said. Along the way there's a lot of hard work and a lot of trade-offs.

It sounds as though we have both had the benefit of working for some good organizations that are important to women. Women like to marry their careers with something that has an extended purpose, if you will. Certainly insurance is a great career path for women. About 40% of the executive talent in Canada across companies in the insurance sector is female. It's a matter of feeling part of a community, and I sense that with Coast as well.

The challenges are still there, quite frankly. I am often astonished and somewhat disappointed to be one of two or three women in a room attending any level of industry meeting or trade association meeting, so I believe there are still quite a few challenges. As Tracy suggests, women are opting out early because it's just too difficult for them to run a house, support a husband's or significant other's career, and raise children.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Irene Mathyssen

Thank you, Ms. Moore. I'm sorry to cut you off, but we have to move on. I hope you will take time to elaborate further.

Ms. Brosseau, you have seven minutes, please.

April 2nd, 2012 / 4 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I'd like to thank you both for being with us and sharing your experiences.

I would like to ask a few questions of you, Ms. Redies. I read an article stating that for over 20 years you've held a variety of positions with HSBC all over the world. You've had the chance to work in Chicago, London, Hong Kong, and India.

4 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Coast Capital Savings Credit Union

Tracy Redies

I had a team in India. I didn't actually work there.

4 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Okay.

I wonder if you can comment on how women are doing in Canada compared to the other countries you've had experiences in.

4 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Coast Capital Savings Credit Union

Tracy Redies

I would say that places like Hong Kong or the U.S. are not dissimilar to Canada. I'm not as familiar with India, so I probably can't comment too much on that.

The reality is that with the exception of some countries in Scandinavia, female participation at the senior executive level or on boards doesn't seem to have made much ground anywhere, frankly. That's why I think it's a bigger problem than just the whole thing around diversity programs and mentorship, etc. There are bigger problems, and it really comes down whether it's worth it to do it.

4 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

I know exactly what you're talking about. I've been here for about a year and I'm a single mom. You always have to work hard and you know it's always that time-work balance, but you see the bigger picture. You want to be a good role model and give it 110%. There are choices you make.

You touched on four areas we have to concentrate on—education, financial literacy, community leadership, and business leadership. Is that right?