Gender Diversity, Gender Equality, katharine griffiths, katharinegriffiths, women

What progressive looks like in gender equality

According to Stats Canada, women have outpaced men in university graduation since the 1990’s; this trend is projected to continue with more than 65% of university graduates currently women. Most fields, even in the 90’s, had more female than male graduates: health, law, social sciences, humanities, education, and business management. There are only three fields that still see fewer women than men graduate: math and computer science, architecture and engineering, and protective services; but less than 15% of all students graduate in these fields. Most of today’s leaders, even in the technology industry, come from a variety of educational backgrounds. There have been plenty of women in the pipeline since the early 90’s to identify, mentor, and promote into senior leadership and board positions.

So, what are the missing ingredients that have kept women out of the boardroom and executive ranks? Many will say it is confidence, acceptance, and support. Several organizations globally and locally are addressing this problem with young girls before they become university age; two such organizations are Technovation and ambiSHEous.

Technovation is a global technology entrepreneurship program that encourages young girls in middle school and high school to pursue technology and business fields. An annual challenge is run across more than 100 countries globally. Young girls work in teams to build a mobile app that solves a community problem, write a business plan that supports their idea, and pitch their start-up to a panel of judges. Professional women, who serve as impressive role models, mentor the girls as they work through the program. These amazing mentors often continue to support the girls throughout their future careers. Participating in Technovation Challenge gives young girls the increased confidence they need to pursue technology fields and to believe they can accomplish anything.

ambiSHEous is a local organization that was founded on the premise girls should be encouraged to lead early and should be, not only accepted, but honoured for their bold ambition. They combine entrepreneurship training, citizenship education, and leadership development to shape the ambitions of girls in a positive, world-changing way. Like Technovation, ambiSHEous knows that confidence is the result of skills, knowledge, and experience; which is why they focus on educating girls in financial literacy, entrepreneurship, civic engagement, and social change. They equip girls with the valuable skills, real-life know-how, and confidence they need to step forward and lead.

It is through global and local programs like Technovation and ambiSHEous that girls are developing the confidence they need to be future leaders. These types of programs are reminding young girls that it is perfectly acceptable to be bold and ambitious; and they are encouraging young girls to tackle tough world problems. As the pace of female university graduates continues to rise and as young girls acquire the much-needed confidence, acceptance, and support to be future leaders, it could very well be ‘Our Turn’.

katharine griffiths, katharinegriffiths, Poetry, storytelling


Tsk, tsk. Tsk, tsk. Tsk, tsk.
A single grackle ruins an
inspired moment.

The delicate twitter of the yellow finches
as they flit through branches.
And the gentle coo of the mourning dove
as she guides from her perch.
A northern cardinal chirping
‘pretty girl, pretty girl’.

All softly unconvincing
next to the incessant
Tsk, tsk. Tsk, tsk. Tsk, tsk.

Isn’t that too often the way?


katharine griffiths, katharinegriffiths, Poetry, storytelling

Math and Magic

arid bryce canyon clouds color

Standing in the rhythm of numbers
Predictable, safe
Black or white
Piano keys singing a melody

Dancing away with a tentative step
Courage, discomfort
Shades of gray
Storm clouds threatening an explosion of thunder

Tempting to cower beneath stability
Doubt, uncertainty
Depths of whiteness
White curtains billowing in a white room

Braving the fear with a jete
Determination, faith
Symphony of colour
A brilliant rainbow coaxed into being by the slightest glimmer of light

feminism, Gender Diversity, katharine griffiths, katharinegriffiths, women

Boys will be boys. And the women who love them.

I loved being the only woman in a room full of men. I played golf (not very well), shot pool, beat everyone (really!) at poker, organized beer nights, pointed out attractive women, and studied up on NFL, MLB, PGA, and NHL. I wore being ‘one of the guys’ like a badge of honour, until I realized that I was sacrificing my natural gifts to fit into a mold that wasn’t designed for me as a woman. You rarely hear guys saying ‘Man, I’d love to be ‘one of the girls!’. In fact, what I have heard, is other men say they’ll revoke a guy’s man card if he acknowledges his femininity.

Let’s save the topic of men embracing their feminine side for another day so we can focus on the masculine attributes that make working with men completely and utterly fantastic!

  • Men regularly say what they mean: Organizational politics aside, you usually don’t have to guess what a man is thinking. Men are more naturally assertive than women. They are comfortable saying what they think, so if they have something to share, they will say it directly with little concern for feelings. The result: fewer hidden agendas and little gossip.
  • Men tend not to hold grudges: Men can have aggressive arguments involving name-calling and cursing, and still toast a beer with each other later the same day. Because they have less concern for feelings, they get over conflict more readily (which is not to say the conflict is resolved).
  • Most men are amazingly bold, bordering on brazen: I am regularly flabbergasted at how confident men are in the skills they have, what they can achieve, and how easily they convince others of their value. I wish there was a pill women could take to get a dose of that confidence which is why I was thrilled when the byline for International Women’s Day 2017 was ‘Be Bold for a Change’.
  • Many men are naturally protective: Evolution is to thank for men being natural protectors. They can be counted on to take care of people and resolve issues that threaten an organization. Their protective tendencies are what make them very loyal to their friends, colleagues, and companies.

Men are easy to work with because their agenda is simple: take heed of their advice, get over conflict quickly, help them make their bold ideas a reality, let them protect their turf and stay loyal to their friends. The sweet spot will be when we can harness the power of these masculine traits and couple them with the feminine gifts that come naturally to women.

feminism, Gender Diversity, katharine griffiths, katharinegriffiths, women

What Progressive Looks Like in Gender Equality.

Global research shows that gender balanced boards drive better results. Companies with the most women board directors had a 16% higher Return on Sales (ROS) than those with the least, and a 26% higher Return on Invested Capital (ROIC). And yet, less than 20% of board seats are held by women in Canada and the US.

Entrepreneurial women and progressive men are creating new organizations that promote women in business and technology, encourage young girls to enter STEM fields, protect women from sexually harassing environments, and prepare women for senior leadership roles and the board room.

One example of a company promoting women in business and technology is the global powerhouse: Work180. Starting in Australia as DCC Jobs, Work180 recently re-branded as they set their sight on the global market. This progressive recruiting firm’s main goal is to identify female-friendly businesses and recruit on their behalf. Corporations who understand the value of increasing female representation at all levels of an organization, across many industries, are flocking to Work180 to become certified as female-friendly and to attract more women.

Employers are pre-screened on a set of criteria including paid parental leave, pay equity, flexible working, professional development, and employee engagement. If a company meets the minimum criteria, they are advertised as ‘Work180 Certified’; the breadth of certified industries ranges from engineering to fashion. And with the support of companies like Microsoft Corporation, Optus, and BHP, the trend of women choosing female-friendly companies and companies choosing to create female-friendly environments is expected to evolve and disrupt.

Female leaders, entrepreneurs, mentors, and educators are coaching peers in industry and young girls everywhere to break out as entrepreneurs, to make sound business decisions, to stand up for their legal rights, and to look for evidence of female support before joining a company. The data is clear in demonstrating that businesses with more female representation at the board and senior executive levels drive better financial results. There are many examples of organizations like Work180 that make attracting and retaining women easier for female-friendly companies. And there is still more to come.

feminism, Gender Diversity, katharine griffiths, katharinegriffiths, women

Women and work. The confusion is real.

I joined the Women’s March this year with my husband and my daughter. My aunt, who was a pioneer for gender diversity in the financial industry, challenged the need for a Women’s March. She questioned what more is required to justify still marching.

In North America, women legally have the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to health and reproductive care, and the right to an education. I answered that we will need an annual Women’s March until the spirit of the law is honoured and until all women globally share the same fundamental rights.

Her passion for how easy women have it today made me curious about the pendulum swing of change associated with the role women have played in society. Throughout recent history women have swayed between taking care of the home and developing a career. From the late 19th century until the 1960’s, it seemed to be an either-or venture, and women who didn’t follow the societal norms of the time were often shunned by other women.

Women have had many more opportunities since the 1960’s to choose their own path. The naming of 2018 as ‘Year of the Woman’ feels a bit redundant since 1992 shared the same honour, but I expect that 2018 will be different. Both men and women are no longer falling by default into traditional roles, and many industries are applying conscious effort to implement diversity agendas. It helps that investment firms, the financial industry, and government organizations are holding corporations accountable for hitting gender diversity targets. Change is happening.

Women are a driving force behind the push for gender diversity. My hope is that this is the final wave of feminism; as the gender equality agenda becomes the norm across every level of every industry globally, the need for a feminist movement will expire. We’ll all just be equal, and those wonderful attributes that make men and women different will be embraced.

feminism, Gender Diversity, katharine griffiths, katharinegriffiths, women

Alice and the opportunity. Is that looking glass an antique?

Change is happening. The ratio of female vs. male university graduates has reversed since the 1970’s: 59% of all Canadian and 55% of all US university graduates are women; and women continue to outpace men in university enrolment. The percentage of women as primary income earners has increased 31% since the era of the ‘Happy Housewife’ and 42% of dual-earning households had a woman as the primary breadwinner. And, these statistics are on the rise. We need to ensure that we are all looking through modern lenses to avoid having gender bias affect whether a woman will be considered for a promotion, a new role, more responsibility, or a relocation. If Alice* is being considered for an opportunity; or, if she has been unconsciously dismissed, check for bias by asking the following questions.

  • Does Alice have young children?
  • Is Alice responsible for primary care of her children?
  • Would Alice’s husband accommodate a change?
  • Are Alice’s children older now?
  • Does Alice regularly attend to the needs of her children?

The response to each of these questions is: it doesn’t matter.

Today’s technology permits any parent, whether male or female, to address family needs and still deliver timely results at work. The lines of parental responsibility are blurred since households vary between dual-income, single-family, and blended family. Flexible work environments support work-life balance for both fathers and mothers, both parents often share primary care responsibility, and spouses tend to support each other’s careers. If a woman is appealing for an opportunity now that her children are grown, then it is assured that unconscious bias had existed previously. And, I have yet to meet a man at any level who didn’t respond promptly if his wife or children wanted his attention. These questions rarely arise automatically when considering men for opportunities, and they certainly no longer apply to women. Hopefully that antique looking glass has already been replaced with some seriously trendy specs! If not, new lenses may be in order.

*Alice is an arbitrary woman; any association to a real woman is purely coincidence.

feminism, Gender Diversity, katharine griffiths, katharinegriffiths, women

Gender Diversity: Does choosing easy get results?

We’re all by nature lazy. Every single one of us. Even marathon runners. A study by the University of College London demonstrated that humans tend to choose a path of least resistance unless increased awareness is used to achieve something greater or to do what is right. For example, runners apply awareness, set goals, measure progress, and consistently make healthy choices when they train for a marathon. It is through conscious effort that they find success. The same is true for the drive toward gender equality: conscious effort is needed to achieve the desired result. We can apply the same four steps to drive a gender equality agenda as a runner would to complete a marathon.

1.      Be Aware

Applying conscious effort to a diversity and inclusion program requires bringing awareness to unconscious bias. Awareness is the first step. It can be triggered with practical strategies like delivering mandatory diversity and inclusion training, creating a culture where questioning default behavior and groupthink is safe, and treating a gender equality agenda the same as any other change management initiative.

2.      Set Goals

Although a topic worthy of debate, quota setting, and disruption are required to achieve gender equality in an accelerated timeline. Setting a quota will challenge the ‘but I just want the best person for the job’ programming, because it will create discussion around what the best person for a job really looks like. Creative solutions stem from open dialog, so by setting quotas, and allowing the conflict to surface, teams have an opportunity to identify and implement strategies to combat the issues.

3.      Measure Progress

Measuring success will depend largely on the goals that are set. The goals will be unique to each organization and will differ by industry. For example, a software firm may set the lofty goal of hiring 40% female computer science graduates into entry-level software development positions. Since only 30% of math and computer science graduates are female, aggressive hiring techniques which appeal to women will need to be designed. A few examples of measures for this goal include: percentage of female applicants to female-friendly job ads vs. to traditional job ads, percentage of women interviewed who pass the assessment criteria vs. men, percentage of women hired into entry level positions vs. men, and percentage of women thriving after one year vs. men. These are measurement examples for one goal; similar principles can be applied to determine measurements for other goals. The benefit of measuring progress is having the chance to better understand the reason behind the result and adjust strategy as required.

4.      Be Consistent

I love the quote ‘Practice makes permanent’. The slight difference between that and ‘Practice makes perfect’ is the key to consistency. There will be targets that aren’t met and female candidates who don’t work out. Perfection is not the goal. If we keep our focus on making progress, then we can learn from our failures and identify new success tactics.

Achieving gender equality is a marathon not a sprint. It is a big change that requires ongoing conscious effort. We can either be the marathon runner who had to have open heart surgery to motivate healthy choices, or we can use awareness to challenge our default programming when it comes to gender bias. Maintaining the status quo is the path of least resistance. But is choosing easy the right thing to do for our collective future?

feminism, Gender Diversity, katharine griffiths, katharinegriffiths, women

Diversity and Inclusion. Is it working?

The most fundamental human need is the need to belong. According to an article published by Victoria Plaut in Scientific American, October 2014, ‘fostering a more diverse workforce in science, technology, and health care requires attending to differences and nurturing a sense of belonging’. Many organizations have launched ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ programs; the goal being to nurture a sense of belonging through education, representation, cultural support, and attention. These programs are great, but are they working? Ask these five questions to find out.

Who is attending the training? Oftentimes training is not mandatory, so participants tend to be either female, or a handful of men already attuned to the value of embracing gender diversity. Perception altering information is shared in these sessions: key gender differences, unconscious gender bias, and the proven return on investment associated with increasing female representation at the board and senior executive levels. Program success is closely linked to who attends the training.

Where are the female role models? Women are paying attention to where they stand in an organization. Touting ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ initiatives, while certainly encouraging, can only motivate them for so long. If the hierarchy is dominated by men and there is little opportunity for advancement, then the return on investment of these programs will be harder to realize.

When are the women involved? It is the small, repeated behaviors that demonstrate whether an environment has an exclusive club mentality or is open and inclusive. Who is being invited for beers or to dinner when a senior executive is in town? Who made the cut for the round of golf? What types of events are being scheduled? Is the bar or restaurant the team picked appropriate for both men and women? Has a key female teammate been unconsciously excluded from the weekly breakfast meeting? If the natural tendency of the organization favours an exclusive culture, then the inclusion initiatives will need extra focus and attention.

What are the women saying? The sure-fire way to confirm that a ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ program is working is to ask the women in the organization. Women appreciate what works and tolerate what doesn’t work. Listening to what they say and then acting on their feedback will guarantee success.

How is program success measured? Investing in a ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ program without measuring its success is like burying money in the ground hoping for a tree to take root. There is a wealth of measurements that can be implemented. Start small, be resolute in hitting targets, and iterate.

I applaud organizations who have implemented ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ initiatives; many have not even gotten that far yet! The benefits of these programs are ample: understanding the value of the differences between men and women so feminine attributes can be embraced rather than stifled, bringing awareness to unconscious bias so it can no longer permeate a culture, and increasing female representation at the board and senior executive levels so the return on investment can be actualized. Measuring success, hearing the women, checking cultural bias, demonstrating commitment, and educating everyone in the organization are essential ingredients in making a ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ program icing on a very well-baked cake.

feminism, Gender Diversity, katharine griffiths, katharinegriffiths

It’s about more than #metoo!

The “Me Too” campaign triggered a firestorm of women taking a stand against harassing and assaulting men. Political forums and media outlets, community organizations, and the corporate world are reeling from the impact. Everyone, men and women alike, is on edge; men are defensive, and women are combative. In some circles feminism is a dirty word whether touted by men or women. We are in a watershed moment. We have an opportunity to change the story.

Matt Damon experienced backlash for his comments about the good white men when he stated, “We’re in this watershed moment and it’s great, but I think one thing that’s not being talked about is there are a whole shitload of guys — the preponderance of men I’ve worked with — who don’t do this kind of thing and whose lives aren’t going to be affected.” Matt Damon was right in the sense that most men are good men, most men are not misogynistic or sexist, and most men see their female counterparts as equal. It is these men who have an opportunity to be on the positive side of feminism.

In 2014, Emma Watson launched the ‘HeForShe’ campaign which called on men and boys to be advocates for equality and to help course-correct when they witness inequality. I implore you to watch her impassioned United Nations speech here. It is unfortunate that the term feminism gets such bad press from both men and women; most women want equal pay, equal opportunity, and to have their right to choose any path honoured. We are not angry and aggressive man-haters. Quite simply, feminism is ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes’.

Women are not positioned to drive this much needed change alone. We need good men to have our backs, to pay attention, to disrupt the status quo, and to take a stand when they witness injustice; not because we need to be saved, but rather because making gender equality a priority is important for our collective future. Feminism is not a dirty word. Feminism is nothing to fear. Let this be a call out to all the good men. Let’s change the story together.