Progress in Gender Equity Is Promising but By No Means Final

President at HeForShe Summit

Glacial. That is how Dominic Barton, our 11th chancellor and Global Managing Partner Emeritus of McKinsey & Company, described the progress of gender equity in the world. “It’s moving, but it’s glacial. There’s a lot of good intent, but it’s glacial,” Dominic said.

This is not where we want to be as a University or as a society.

We have done many good things at Waterloo since taking up the HeForShe flag in 2015 and joining the IMPACT 10x10x10 movement to make concrete gender equity commitments to be achieved by 2020. As Our commitments are:

  • Increase the representation of those who identify as women in our faculty ranks to 30%
  • Increase the number of faculty and administrative senior leaders to 29% across the university
  • Increase the number of girls and women in our STEM outreach experiences and activities to 33%

We set a deadline of 2020 and this year we have exceeded these targets.

I am proud of our progress, and it is promising, but it is by no means final. There is more to do and we must do it faster.

HeForShe Emerging Solutions Report

I was privileged to be at the United Nations Women HeForShe IMPACT Summit in New York City this week with my fellow IMPACT 10x10x10 champions for the release of the Emerging Solutions Report. This report details the progress of the IMPACT champions’ gender equity efforts. It is a testament to what can be achieved by setting goals and making real change in just three years.

A great deal of positivity and sharing of ideas took place at the Summit, but there was also a message that echoed across business, academia and government. That message was that more has to be done. And, it has to start now.

Leaders from around the world all voiced that what has changed definitively is that gender equity and diversity is no longer about achieving a moral imperative, but that we are suffering from an exclusion of good people who have great ideas and exceptional talent simply because they identify as women.

Dominic Barton even illustrated this point during the fireside chat portion of his lecture when he detailed a situation where a mining company CEO sent back an entire McKinsey team because it was entirely made up of men. The CEO didn’t do it out of a moral obligation. As Dominic shared, the CEO said, “If that’s the way you guys operate, where’s your diversity of thinking?”

There are extraordinary people who can make our businesses, governments, universities and all of society a better, more productive place if they were just given a seat at the table and on a level playing field. One initiative or one policy will not bring the kind of social and cultural change we need to produce permanent change. Equity takes a system-wide approach where everyone is involved.

I encourage you to join me in not being satisfied with incremental change in gender equity and strive for not only what is right, but what will make Canada and the world a better place.

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