Evidence of meeting #65 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was company.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Lesley Lawrence  Senior Vice President, Ontario, Business Development Bank of Canada
Ramona Benson  Chief Commercial Officer, Globacon Inc., As an Individual
Geneviève Dion  Cofounder, Parents jusqu'au bout
Marilyne Picard  Cofounder, Parents jusqu'au bout
Michelle Scarborough  Managing Director, Strategic Investments and Women in Tech, Business Development Bank of Canada
Caroline Codsi  President and Founder, Women in Governance
Lynsey Thornton  Vice-President, User Experience, Shopify Inc.
Shifrah Gadamsetti  Chair, Board of Directors, Canadian Alliance of Student Associations
Alexandra Clark  Director, Public Policy, Shopify Inc.

9:40 a.m.

Chief Commercial Officer, Globacon Inc., As an Individual

Ramona Benson

I think it's an opportunity at the same time, because you get to be placed. But the reality is that there aren't fewer women than men. That's the reality. Even though it's two-sided, even though it's an opportunity to be somewhere, I believe you don't just put them there. You have to educate and graduate them through the process so they can contribute.

In a work environment, when you're given a role because of your ethnicity, your gender, whether you're a minority or disabled, your colleagues treat you differently if you're not up to the job. So I believe that you also need to be up to the job and still have opportunity. That's usually given through internships and all of that, because you really get to learn hands-on that way. That takes away from someone being labelled.

With the education system that I mentioned, I was suggesting that you take away from the labelling and to treat men and women the same way and be able to just graduate them for their God-given talent and for what they can learn through the process by enhancing their capabilities and aptitude.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

That's the end of our time.

I'm so thankful to all of our witnesses for their time and testimony today.

If there are things you've thought of that you would like to have the committee review, please send them to the clerk

Ms. Malcolmson.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Chair, if I could, I'd like to put on the record that I'm hoping our cost-recovery policy will compensate Ms. Tétrault, Ms. Dion, and Ms. Picard for their travel. Perhaps I could sow the seed that, if the clerk identifies any gaps in their expenses, our policy might be able to cover them for child care and so on, which isn't always included.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

You will be happy to know that the clerk and I have already been having this discussion, so we are on the same page.

Thank you very much again.

We'll suspend while we get ready for the second panel.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

We're starting the second panel with some very exciting witnesses.

We have, from an organization called Women in Governance, Caroline Codsi, president and founder. From Shopify, we have Lynsey Thornton, the vice-president of user experience, and Alexandra Clark, the director of public policy. We also have, from the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, Shifrah Gadamsetti.

Welcome to you, ladies.

Each organization will have seven minutes for comments.

We'll start with Ms. Codsi.

9:50 a.m.

Caroline Codsi President and Founder, Women in Governance

Hello.

Should I do it in French or English? My notes are in French. They've been distributed, I believe.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

You can speak in either language.

9:50 a.m.

President and Founder, Women in Governance

Caroline Codsi

Okay. I'll give my presentation in French.

I'm happy to answer questions in English.

Women in Governance is a non-for-profit organization founded in 2010. The goal is to help women develop their leadership, enhance their career and access board seats. Alarming statistics inspired the creation of this organization. Women constitute only 5% of CEOs of FP500 companies and only 15.9% of board members. It's quite abysmal.

If you've already heard that women constitute 20% of board members, I want to specify that these are TSX 60 figures, meaning the figures for the 60 largest companies in the country. The figure doesn't represent the situation in our society as a whole.

While women constitute 47.3% of the workforce, only 5.3% of them are business leaders. That's the situation, in our country, in 2017.

Among all the G7 countries, Canada has one of the highest participation rates of women in the workforce. Although the wage gap has been reduced, Statistics Canada data from January 2017 shows that the average hourly wage of women, in all employment categories combined, is 16% lower than the average hourly wage of men. Moreover, women continue to bear a greater share of the burden of unpaid work.

In Quebec, we've made fairly dramatic progress in recent years. The participation rates of women aged 25 to 54 are around 86%, a record high. Since 2000, this rate has jumped by almost nine percentage points, one of the most spectacular increases in Canada.

Let's compare Quebec to the four most populated provinces in Canada. It currently ranks first in terms of the number of jobs held by women, whereas 16 years ago, it lagged behind in this area. Quebec's family policy has certainly played a role in this progress. Women in Governance encourages the government to support measures that help more women participate in the Canadian economy.

Research shows that there's no shortage of qualified women ready to hold senior management positions. They're educated and prepared. That's not the issue. A lack of self-confidence and assurance is sometimes an issue. At Women in Governance, we've been addressing this issue through our mentoring program. However, women lack sponsors, meaning men or women who can not only act as their mentors, but also help them by recommending them, speaking about them, and directing them to decision-making bodies. The likelihood of obtaining this type of sponsor is supposedly 46% higher for men than for women, which is a significant difference. Also, the business world doesn't sufficiently support work-life balance. This continues to be a women's area, and constitutes a gap.

We're emphasizing the need to implement strategies to help women join not only decision-making bodies, but all levels of a company.

We also maintain that quotas must be set. Why? It's not enough to simply disclose objectives. All the country's financial market authorities have implemented the “comply or explain” principle. The principle has been in effect for two or three years, and the results are, at minimum, lukewarm. However, certain countries that have set official quotas obtain good results.

In Quebec, under the Charest government, legislation on women's parity in stated-owned enterprises was passed, and the objective was very quickly achieved.

At Women in Governance, we've decided to create parity certification. It's a bit like the ISO. It measures what companies have implemented to achieve parity, not only in decision-making bodies, but at all hierarchical levels. The idea is to have a talent pool when there's a desire to promote women to senior management positions.

We held a public consultation with McKinsey & Company, a consulting firm, and the Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés, the equivalent of the HRPA in Ontario. We're talking about human resources specialists here. The consultation involved checking the whole questionnaire and making sure it was strong enough.

We want to award parity certification to companies. Companies that stand out will be honoured at our gala on September 12, at the Palais des congrès. It's our way of focusing on the subject. For the first year, the certification will be awarded only to companies that have 400 or more employees. For the second year, we intend to apply this initiative to SMEs, given that Quebec has many of them. For the second year, we also intend to establish the certification outside Quebec.

I also want to provide a brief global perspective.

In Canada, we encourage companies to disclose their objectives. For example, Bill C-25 really focuses on the disclosure of objectives. However, things aren't really changing in Canada. Only objectives set internally are disclosed. Only 9% of Canadian companies have set clear objectives. In comparison, in Australia, 82% of ASX 200 companies have clear objectives. The percentage of women on boards rose from 19.4% in 2012 to 23.4% in 2016.

Am I speaking too fast? I have so much to share. I have seven minutes, and I could spend the whole day.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

No, no, that was your one-minute warning. Now you have 30 seconds left.

9:55 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

9:55 a.m.

President and Founder, Women in Governance

Caroline Codsi

Oh, my one-minute warning. My God.

9:55 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

9:55 a.m.

President and Founder, Women in Governance

Caroline Codsi

Okay. I'll be very quick.

I also want to talk about France. In France they have quotas, as you know. In 2010 in Canada and France, women made up 12% of boards. If we fast-forward to today, France is at almost 40% when we're at 15.9%. That's la loi Copé-Zimmermann. I was invited by Marie-Jo Zimmermann, the deputy who put this law in place, to speak at the National Assembly in Paris in December two years ago. She also invited a woman from Sweden to share their experience. They were the very first ones to have quotas. I was kind of the example of what not to do—that is, not putting in place quotas—and the Swedes were the example of the very first one. They have parity. They've had it for a decade.

What is very striking to see, however, is that in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, yes, they have parity on boards, but at the executive committee level fewer than 20% are women. In other words, when you legislate, there are results, and they legislated only for boards. There's no legislation for executive committees or anything else, so nothing is happening at that level. That is why we've decided to put this corporate parity certification in place, so that we're able to have an impact.

I have so much more to say. I hope you read what I've left here for you. It's in French, but I'm happy to...and then there are questions, of course.

Thank you.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Thank you.

Now we'll go to Lynsey and Alexandra for seven minutes.

9:55 a.m.

Lynsey Thornton Vice-President, User Experience, Shopify Inc.

Shopify is a company that has close to 2,000 employees, and four offices in Canada and one in the U.S. We support entrepreneurs and SMBs in over 175 countries worldwide. For a company that has seen 100% growth year on year, the topic we're talking about today is absolutely crucial for our growth and success.

I lead a team of about 200 highly skilled designers, writers, researchers, and developers at Shopify, and I'll speak to some of the barriers that I've seen exist for the women around me.

The first is return to work and workplace integration after maternity leave. Access and costs of child care remain a critical barrier to women's economic security. In our company alone, a number of women have faced serious challenges returning to work, as a result of child care availability and the financial hardship incurred. As a result of the recently introduced child care rules, the number of children a day care centre or individual can take is limited for safety. The unintended result of this is that the availability of day care facilities has decreased, while costs have increased.

For example, many day care facilities will not take children until they're 14 or 18 months old, making it nearly impossible for women to return to the workplace before this. This timeline does not line up with company maternity policies, leaving women relying on family to bridge this gap for them.

Costs of child care are high—on average, $30K per child per year in Toronto, or $26K per child per year in Ottawa—making the return to work an impossibility for lower-income women and a significant challenge even for higher-income women.

The lowered capacity for day care providers has led to women on our team needing to sign up for waiting lists when they're three months pregnant, leaving absolutely zero flexibility for the woman to move house, job, or location in the early years of their child's life. Mobility is a need for modern careers, and this lack of mobility leads to devastating consequences for that woman's ability to advance her career while growing her family at the same time. We've seen this first hand when headhunting senior women: they're often not willing to move their families due to the high cost of losing their support networks, while knowing the difficulty involved in reintegration. The same problem does not exist to the same degree for men, who frequently move their families for job opportunities at Shopify.

Infant and child sickness is another frequent reason for employees to take time off. If any company isn't open to working from home or where sick days are limited, there's no question that women are sidelined as a result of this incompatibility between workplace and child care expectations.

Women on our team have told me it was very difficult for them to even find child care when interviewing to come back to work after taking leave. Our interviews are typically full-day events, so it's not easy or cheap for women to accommodate this. More recently we've begun paying for the child care needs of women we invite to interview, but most companies do not.

The truth is that while, for most parents, both face barriers to work as a result of family commitments, it is still the woman who experiences the full consequences. If this is to be truly addressed, the government needs to put in place a framework for child care that is not only safe, but affordable and accessible too.

When it comes to hiring and income gap, we frequently see women reporting lower base salaries despite their talents and experience. We've worked hard internally to define salary bands that ensure we pay correctly for the role, regardless, but most companies do not. We know women today still struggle to fight for the correct level of pay, and if companies still choose to hire women at lower salary levels, this ensures that women's salaries will remain lower.

When it comes to interviewing, we see many unconscious biases come into play. Almost every interviewer at Shopify has received some sort of training to make them aware of these unconscious biases, and every interview panel openly discusses possible biases when we get together to recap a candidate's next steps. We're highly aware of these biases, and even we are struggling to overcome them day to day. It remains difficult for women to overcome the systemic biases of how they're required to act by society's standards. All this to say, in comparison with other companies, we've invested significantly in educating ourselves and the people around us about these biases and our problems are still not solved. Imagine how difficult it might be for a woman to be hired or advance in a company where these things are not in place.

Lastly, concerning advancement of women in the workplace, for the most part it's still women that I see as the primary champions of other women. In my experience, female-led teams are much more likely to hire and promote females. Technology professionals are in high demand, and senior females tell me that they won't even consider a company that doesn't feature women in high profile or senior positions.

Professional development opportunities like training or conferences frequently happen over the weekend and can be particularly challenging for those with families. Shopify runs a conference that features female-led speaker lineups called Beyond the Code. We offer free child care for attendees, alongside some other inclusive conferences run by others in Canada.

Showcasing, mentorship, and sponsorship of high potential women have been successful methods for us to highlight and advance women in the company. They give a platform to those who don't necessarily feel they're entitled to one, despite high quality work. As a fast-growing company, we've seen the need for coaching internally to help us develop the leadership skills we need. I can personally attribute a lot of my personal growth to the focus of a coach who has been able to provide me with a lot of the focus as I've moved into a VP position.

So today I've mainly spoken about the barriers that I see internally at Shopify when it comes to female economic security, but I also see these manifest in the female entrepreneurs who our business supports. Our customer base has changed a lot over the last couple of years, from a male majority to a female majority. This reflects some of the opportunities that are being opened up to women through the Shopify platform, when it comes to lowering the cost of running a business, as well as making it easier to get started. But despite the shift in our customer numbers, this is by no means a solved problem. We still see the most successful businesses on the platform being run by males, indicating that a ceiling still exists for female entrepreneurs.

As we've seen first hand, addressing the barrier to female inclusion and advancement in the workplace requires a long-term time and monetary investment. There's still a huge role for government to play in ensuring that, whether we're referring to women who are starting their own businesses or working within the technology industry, they have the support and backing of the Canadian government.

Thank you.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

That's excellent.

Now we'll go to Shifrah for seven minutes.

10:05 a.m.

Shifrah Gadamsetti Chair, Board of Directors, Canadian Alliance of Student Associations

Good morning, Madam Chair and members of the committee, witnesses, and members of the gallery.

My name is Shifrah Gadamsetti and I am president of Mount Royal University Students' Association in Calgary, Alberta, as well as chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations here in Ottawa. We advocate at the federal level on behalf of 21 member institutions and 250,000 students from coast to coast, based on our pinnacles of accessibility, affordability, innovation, and education of the highest quality.

Before I begin, please allow me to take a moment to thank you for having us here once again, and for seeking out our perspective. This is an issue that I care very deeply about, based on my own personal, lived experiences. I am a first-generation immigrant. I work on the front lines of health care as a registered nurse, and I am very involved with many grassroots organizations that work to eradicate violence against women. These experiences have taught me that everyone has a unique story, but at the end of the day we all face systemic barriers.

CASA sees accessibility, affordability, and high-quality education as key to fighting poverty and improving economic conditions for all Canadians. There continues to be overwhelming evidence that as long as you have access to post-secondary education, you have access to higher lifetime earnings and better employment opportunities. While more women are accessing post-secondary education than ever before, we still see that they face unique challenges and that there are further considerations to be made for those who face barriers along multiple intersections.

CASA has produced many different policies that we hope will improve the experience of women in post-secondary and their economic sustainability. We really strive to create a safe campus environment for all of our member institutions. While it's incredibly important for our campus environments to be safe for all students, we find that women face very specific challenges, especially in terms of gender-based sexual violence on our campus, which makes it unwelcoming and very unsafe as an environment.

Women represent over 93% of the survivors of sexual assault, violence and harassment on our campuses, and from my work with the Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse, we know that for every case that is reported, there are so many that are not.

For our campuses to be safe, we cannot simply be reactive, so proactive engagement such as stand-alone sexual assault policies, promotion of consent culture, and inviting all members of our campus community to participate in the dialogue makes it everyone's issue, not just those who are affected personally. We know that this committee is very familiar with the idea of gender-based violence on campuses. We had the privilege of presenting to you on that before, and we're very supportive of the report you released that addressed those issues.

Today, we would really like to highlight the barriers that exist to fully participating in post-secondary.

Women continue to be responsible for dependants at higher rates than men. For women in post-secondary, especially those who are historically marginalized or from lower-income backgrounds, mature learners' child care continues to be imperative to their success. The combined stressors of managing dependants, part-time and/or full-time work, and the dedication to post-secondary really make it hard for these women to succeed.

Student assistance plays an incredibly important role in this. The Canada student loans program currently uses a needs assessment to determine how much financial aid a student is eligible for. This current assessment factors in child care costs, but it isn't reflective of the actual costs of child care.

For example, the monthly loan limit in Ontario for child care is $357, but in Toronto the average monthly cost for child care is $1,700. Since 80% of those with dependants receiving loans or grants in recent years are women, we think they would benefit significantly from an improvement to this program.

A related challenge is the lack of national data about child care availability on campus or in surrounding communities. Not all campuses actually offer this service, and certainly there are communities that are disproportionately disadvantaged.

First nations students are an example. We know that one-third of our first nations students are parents, so we think initiatives such as subsidized child care on campus, indigenous family housing, and improved financial aid would significantly help those in need. We also believe that affordable child care is key to the success of women on campus, as is data collection, so that we know exactly the types of needs that are present for our students.

Supports are also needed exist for women once they begin transitioning into the workforce. For those who cannot find gainful employment immediately, there is currently a repayment assistance program. It allows graduates to hold off on repaying their student loans until they meet the threshold of a $25,000 annual income.

While we're very supportive of this initiative, we recognize that there are concerns about the promotion of the program and the process for accessing the program. For instance, recent graduates who are accessing it have to reapply every six months, and there's a lack of awareness among those who are eligible to use it. Two-thirds of part-time borrowers identify as women and if they knew about programs like this, it would have a significant impact on their financial stability. We would recommend that this program be expanded to last a year without applicants having to reapply.

Student employment, of course, continues to be at the forefront of our minds. Women are engaged in multiple and often uncompensated responsibilities while attending post-secondary education, so we believe that the transition from education to employment needs to be prioritized as well.

Experiential learning continues to be an incredibly strong factor and we know that paid opportunities result in more successful outcomes than unpaid ones. As a registered nurse, I know this fact all too well. We would like to draw your attention to the need for more programs that encourage not only the engagement of women in fields like STEM and business, which are typically male-dominated and have compensated employment opportunities, but also those fields that are dominated by women employed in their professions to help with the compensation factor.

Again, thank you so much for having us here today. We really appreciate the opportunity.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Excellent.

We're going to begin our round of questioning with my colleague Ms. Vandenbeld, for seven minutes.

June 1st, 2017 / 10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Thank you very much. I want to thank all of you for coming here to testify today.

As an Ottawa MP, I would like to focus my questions on Shopify, which is a real Ottawa success story. I'm very pleased to see you here today, particularly because of some of the things you've said. We know from our gender-based analysis study that an organization can have the exact same policies, but it will impact women and men differently.

I'm struck by some of the things you said about the interview process and the fact that it, as well as child care, is a barrier; hence, the need for unconscious bias training in the interview process. It's not something we've discussed in detail in this committee yet, so I would be very interested to know a little more about the kinds of outcomes you find. You mentioned the discussions that happen about the unconscious bias during the hiring process. Could you let me know what the outcomes are—and also in terms of the child care provided during the interviews and the professional development days?

10:10 a.m.

Vice-President, User Experience, Shopify Inc.

Lynsey Thornton

Absolutely. I'll start with the unconscious bias.

The primary objective of the discussion is to make people aware of any possible biases they might have, so that we can get past the idea of people hiring those who are similar to themselves, which is what people normally gravitate towards doing. We use those sessions as a means to out any of those biases and to try to overcome them as a group and to refocus on the actual legitimate feedback about any candidate, as opposed to personal preference or opinions. We use it as a way to level the field for that particular candidate and make an informed decision about whether we will proceed with them or not.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Fantastic.

You just mentioned hiring people like yourself. You also had mentioned that women tend to promote other women and that, when you have a woman-led team, there are more women included in that team. I'm struck by that because I know that, even in my own office, when I'm looking at volunteers, interns, and the people I'm coaching, they are the people whom I would say remind me of myself at that age. There is a very distinct factor there.

You've talked about female-led lineups, including speakers, and in the coaching and mentoring that you're doing. Have you had success in bringing in more women by doing that? Are there also men who are coaching women and bringing more women in?

10:15 a.m.

Vice-President, User Experience, Shopify Inc.

Lynsey Thornton

Absolutely.

All four of my bosses at Shopify have been senior males, at different stages of my time in the company. Across the board, I think we look to feature not only females but minorities as well, whenever we're doing internal conferences or anything that provides a platform for those people.

10:15 a.m.

Alexandra Clark Director, Public Policy, Shopify Inc.

One thing I would just add, on the Ottawa theme, is that Shopify recently launched a program with Carleton University, in which we are allowing first-year bachelor of computer science students at Carleton to do their full degree at Shopify. It's a work-integrated learning program that we've done entirely on our own. We pay for them to be there and we pay their tuition.

When we first sent out the application for students to apply, 90% of the replies came from males, so we did a case study and looked at the letter and the language used. We looked at the words we use in technology, like “hustle”, and what was forcing those students and those women to opt out. We went back, rewrote the letter, and sent it back out.

Our first cohort in 2016 at Shopify had a majority of females. We have a group in 2017, and again, I think the numbers are that a majority of the students coming coming into the program are female. Some are women coming back to do their education and some are first-year students whom we'll have for the next four years. So language matters.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

That is absolutely phenomenal. I've called Shopify a success story, and I'm going to be doing that even more because of this. Thank you for that.

Just before I go to my colleague, you mentioned the pay gap and the fact that if the salaries of the women coming in were lower, they will often end up asking for lower salaries and then getting lower salaries. But you're doing something different, it sounds like. What are you doing to make sure that the pay gap doesn't persist as people proceed?