Women Belong in All Places Where Decisions are Being Made – Supporting Female Leaders at Orbis Through Education, Company Culture, Infrastructure, & Open Dialogue

Women make up over half of our nation’s population yet continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions – both politically and professionally. It goes without saying but these arenas shape policies and action that give foundation to worlds of opportunity – like opening doors to offices with beautiful views. Yet, all too often, for women, those views are seen through glass ceilings. Renowned Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Ruth Bader Ginsburg put it best when she said, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” No doubt, she knew her exhaustive list of accomplishments were not merely hers but shared with those women who were able to attempt following her footsteps. Today, despite undeniable progress, we. all still have work to do. Statistically speaking, the current opportunities available to women, although markedly improved, are limited by that darn (old, outdated, gaudy) ’glass ceiling ‘. The numbers aren’t where we want or need them to be – only 27% of seats in the House of Commons belong to women and women comprise only 19.5% of board member positions in Canada’s top 500 companies, holding only 8.5% of the highest-paid positions in Canada (Canadian Women’s Foundation, The Facts about Women & Leadership in Canada, 2017). Read that again and you’ll still see 8.5%.

Equality has no resting point. We know the antithesis of progress as inaction. So, women continue, doing the work and pushing boundaries that were once outlined to contain their growth potential. From the vantage point of higher education, 35% of women in Canada have post-secondary degrees, and 30% of men. Likewise, women hold nearly equivalent job tenures (just under 8 years per company) and spend equal hours fulfilling their jobs daily but remain 60% less likely to move into executive ranks and 30% less likely to be promoted out of entry-level positions (Canadian Women’s Foundation, The Facts about Women & Leadership in Canada, 2017). In short? Women are now equal in workload, hours, tenure, education, but not growth opportunity or compensation. As read in Yale University’s descriptor of their Women’s Leadership Program, “To succeed, women need to learn to navigate both the external factors that are hindering their access to leadership positions and the internal factors that lie within themselves.”

At Orbis, we’re committed to building a work environment and culture of equality and opportunity for all. Principle to this is our guiding inclusivity statement, “We believe in YOU. We hire talented, motivated, and focused people who want to come to work and build something impactful. We hire the best and set them loose. We’ve created an environment where everyone, from any background, feels welcomed, supported, and included.” Statements, however, aren’t meaningful or impactful without action. Supporting female leadership to thrive, through open dialogue and growth opportunities is a part of how we work to embody equality at Orbis.

As we wrapped-up 2020 and kick-start the year ahead one notable opportunity we supported was enrolling two of our female leaders in The Yale School of Management Executive Education Online Women’s Leadership Program. Attending this program are Emily Eley, our Executive Director, and Jeni Riddell, our Team Lead – Product Success & Deployment. This program serves to develop their unique strengths, skills, and traits – empowering Emily and Jeni in pursuit of their leadership style and goals at Orbis while guiding our team to aim higher and be better.

Says Jeni, “I’m a big believer that life throws us all into positions of leadership every day. One of the reasons I love working at Orbis is that I get to witness everyday leadership across all of our teams. Our agile environment empowers us to lead with our authentic selves. It’s how we best solve problems and drive innovation.

The Yale Women’s Leadership Program gave me a fresh perspective as I transition into this new role. I feel equipped with new ideas, skills, and confidence to deliver positive outcomes on projects, and inspire our high-performing teams to explore their own authentic leadership style.”

It’s important for us, at Orbis, to create a culture of inclusivity and equality for all but we recognize that it’s an ongoing and evolving process. As we work within higher education to innovate and prepare the next generation of leaders with the skills, experience, and opportunities fundamental to their ongoing potential fulfillment, we’re also checking-in and monitoring how we’re ensuring female leadership is supported and offered equal opportunities for advancement in the process. At the risk of stating the obvious, our vision for ‘a future of fulfilled potential’ will only be achievable when the potential fulfillment for all is equally accessible and nurtured. Glass ceilings, after all, were made to be broken.

Congratulations, Jeni, on the expansion of your role, and thank you, Emily and Jeni, for participating in this course and taking what you learn to help to inform and guide Orbis.