Thank you very much for having me here.
I must admit, I'm a little like a fish outside the water. I don't do politics, and I am a problem-solver by training. I had a long-standing career at McKinsey as a problem-solver, and I'm now at the University of Toronto as a professor of strategy, where I look at strategy problems. But I also have been involved with advancing women for the last 15 years. Even with my work at McKinsey, they asked me to do a task force to make sure we don't lose women when they become mothers, and that seems to be one of the challenging situations.
I'm coming at this from a bit of a different angle. I'm looking at this and I'm thinking, why has there been such a lack of progress? We've been at this for 20 to 30 years. If this had been any other business problem, the CEOs would have been fired for not making any progress on any of those indicators. How can we look at this problem differently? Clearly, we're just fixing symptoms. I don't think we fix the problem. You know the symptoms. I don't need to go back to the stagnation; women in senior roles have not been moving forward. We don't have more women on boards. What has happened over the last few years has been appalling. We still have hiring biases, and yes, we still have a gender pay gap. We've been at it for at least 20 years. Marilyn, you said this committee has been in existence for 24 years. What else can I say?
However, some progress has been made on more awareness. We have more discussion on this topic. We have more organizations involved in this topic, so there is some progress where we have moved from fixing the women because this is a women's issue, to this is a social issue. I see that as progress.
I believe we are not addressing the systemic issues underneath it. If I may be so blunt—and I apologize because I'm Swiss-German and I'm Canadian as a second choice and I love being in Canada—what stands out to me is the patriarchal mindset in Canada. Unless we change that mindset, and and I think the government can play a role in that, I don't think we'll truly make any progress. We'll fix a few symptoms again, and we'll tweak a little bit here and there, but I don't think there will be any real progress. I'm looking at other countries where true progress has been made. Is there something we can learn and take away from that?
The second point I would make around that is, although it's lovely that we have created more awareness and that there are more organizations involved now, it has become unproductive. We have too many fragmented approaches in trying to solve this issue. I don't know how many witnesses you're going to listen to during this standing committee's existence, but you have way too many organizations trying to make a couple of small impacts without an overarching strategy and goal.
I would propose two solutions to consider for discussion, and I set this out in my document. One would be to influence the mindset and the patriarchal attitude in Canada. That in my mind is a role that government can play. You have had exposure, I'm sure, to behavioural economics. I know about behavioural economics at the federal government level. Government can truly influence helping society to change behaviour.
A shock to the system would be required, and that shock in my mind at this point is a quota system. That is never popular in countries where it's not in existence, but if you go back to European countries who have introduced it, such as France—and I just came from a conference there—nobody liked it when it was discussed, but everybody loves it now that it's implemented. The same holds true for a lot of the Scandinavian countries.
As I said, I think you need a shock to the system to change the mindset of society. Ideally, you don't have to have it in place for very long. It can be staged, and it should have a sunset clause at some point, but you will need to have a drastic impact.
I also want to echo something that was just discussed by the two experts before me. There is also a change possible by introducing mandatory parental leave. This is to make it not optional, but mandatory, for all those new dads to stay at home for a minimum of three months. The European countries that have introduced this have seen a huge change in attitude in society because suddenly it is not considered odd that dad might take the baby to the doctor or be on the playground or run the household and clean the toilets. I think there's a huge benefit to making it mandatory. If you leave it optional, as it currently is in most places other than Quebec, where it is a bit more advanced, men will not take it because there's too much stigma attached to it, right?
The third point around changing the mindset and the attitudes is that there needs to be some more support in getting women back to the workforce once they have stepped out. A lot of women will take parental leave and they will be out for two or three years depending on how many children they choose to have. Sometimes they step out for elder care. Sometimes they step out because their partners are moving around and they are the ones who are holding up the household. Re-entering the workforce is increasingly difficult once you have been out two or three year or more, particularly for women who have advanced degrees. It sounds ridiculous to most ears, but it is actually quite challenging. Despite having a master's degree, whether it is from a recognized university in Canada or outside Canada, the re-entry has been very challenging for most women. We know that because we've been trying to help them for the last six or seven years. I believe you're missing a large economic impact. Particularly for women who are educated at a higher level, the economic impact is huge. So there is something that can be done.
Finally, I know I'm out of time, but I would encourage the federal government to create an umbrella organization. We have been running a pilot currently in Ontario called “the alliance”. I would encourage you to create an umbrella organization to make better use of the funding and to have an overarching strategy for all these wonderful organizations trying to advance women.