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Women get on board

More women belong on boards.

interVivos is committed to bringing awareness to the need for boards to be more diverse. It’s time for companies to rethink board governance to include diverse representation. Organizations need to do a better job of naming women to board of directors seats.

One of our board members attended a Direct Her workshop on the importance of enhancing the number of women on boards. The DirectHer Network is a women-led nonprofit that empowers Canadian women to serve on boards with the necessary tools and support. One of the speakers was Chelsea Hazewinkel. She is the Chief Legal Officer with Paladin Security Group, a parent of three, and a community leader. We reached out to Chelsea for her thoughts on women’s leadership.

Chelsea says the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that women’s contributions lead to more powerful, dynamic, efficient teams; more resilient, efficient, and financially successful organizations; and more enjoyable and engaged workplaces.

How can we ensure women’s voices are heard on boards?

The idea that women need to be empowered by organizations or anyone else is inherently problematic. Chelsea says, “It suggests that women have to wait to be empowered when in reality, the power is always there, and women can flip that switch on their own, anytime they want to, without an external influence. This idea of external empowerment also allows (subconsciously or otherwise) responsibility and accountability to be passed off by women, when in actuality, we are all responsible for our careers, our happiness, our contributions to the world.”

Some say one problem is that there aren’t enough qualified women who want to sit on boards. Chelsea completely disagrees. “It’s an amazing time for women and women leaders. Everywhere I turn, I see impressive women accomplishing incredible things in business, science, medicine, government, entrepreneurship, you name it!”

On top of that, the networks of support and encouragement that women are providing to each other, amplifying the voices and messages, looking to see equality in their vendors, and cheerleading for each other’s successes. There was this pervasive belief for a while in some circles that there weren’t enough qualified women for the boards and executive positions available, and I’m so pleased to see that myth turned on its head. Canada, in particular, has an abundance of highly qualified women ready to take on new challenges and contribute to all aspects of society and the evolving economy”.

Experienced networks of women are coming forward to help other women amplify their voices. For example, in 2019, interVivos hosted a women and non-binary-only mentorship program. The women mentors were intersectional and diverse. Also, the interVivos board is currently made up of nine female board members, most of whom are BIPOC. Three out of five of our advisors are female, and two are BIPOC.

Rather than working toward one final inclusivity goal or target, interVivos believes the most important task is to be welcoming and pay attention to everyday behaviours, the beliefs held by different groups, and their drivers. This will amplify voices both on and off our board. We are committed to steering change in the right direction.

So you’re a woman who wants to serve on a board? Now what?

  • Don’t wait and put your name out there. Get involved on a board! Your opinion is valuable. Attend sessions from organizations like Direct Her, which put on regular governance workshops. Sign up for their newsletter regularly promoting board roles.

  • Think about what you have that a board might want or need. In making your assessment, think about the skills you have acquired throughout your life. Think about the places you have been, the industries you have dealt with, the communities you understand, the groups you have been a part of, and the issues you are passionate about. Recognize that the things you have learned in one arena can often be adapted to suit another.

  • Consider whether you would prefer to join the board of a small organization, a large one, or something in between. Serving on the board of a small organization or one with a small budget will provide a much different experience than serving on the board of a large, well-funded organization. However, serving on either type of board can be very rewarding.

  • Determine your capacity. What sort of board you’d be interested in dedicating your time to? A recently formed board can have start-up issues to tackle. There may be written policies, directions to establish, a mission to articulate, and developing strategies. Such a board may be more time-consuming and challenging than one that has been around for some time and has established processes. Long-established boards can also be very demanding if they change focus or restructure. On the other hand, getting involved in a new or transitional board can bring immense satisfaction as you contribute to the building process.

  • Find a mentor. If you want to work on some leadership skills, we recommend signing up as a protégé for an upcoming interVivos mentorship program. You can find out more about an upcoming program from our newsletter and check out our mentorship program page for more information.

We hope you put your name forward for a board. If you are already on a board, consider bringing on more intersectional women and reflect on how you can make their involvement matter. interVivos will be looking for more board members soon. Sign up for our newsletter, so you don’t miss out!


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