As a long-time public affairs advisor, I find myself no longer able to tolerate the decades of flimsy excuses the Canadian business community offers, when it comes to explaining why there aren’t more women on their boards of directors. Sadly, no one has had the courage to call them on it, so it is now time to call it what it is: gender conceit – plain and simple. What is even sadder is that the magnificent males making these worthless explanations, truly believe the public doesn’t see them as nothing other than what they clearly are – a boatload of nonsense! Or worse, they don’t get the stunning grasp of the obvious – the only two other communities on the planet that actively condone gender conceit are A: the Vatican and B: the Mafia.
I’ve often wondered, what do these men tell their mothers when they try and explain away another stupid board policy? Can you imagine? Of course, I could attempt here to fashion an example or two of their convoluted phrases, but then I’m not a comic.
At this point, in the interest of full disclosure, I feel it only fair to explain my bias: I think women are an indispensable asset that any board of directors could ever have, bar none. Why? Because men are from Mars, but women are from competence. And when you add the universal truth that all men are from women, all of a sudden the male explanation is undeniable evidence of delusion.
My first exposure to female competence happened to be my mother or, as brother Bob and I liked to call her, Famous Mavis. In a word, Mavis was unforgettable. In addition to being the best army wife my father could ever have married, she raised two boys, so often when Dad was overseas during WW II, or serving with NATO. She was universally admired, across the decades, by her military and civilian friends and neighbours. True, her laugh sounded like there was no tomorrow, but when she spoke, people wanted to listen.
As my life would have it, on leaving the Forces, I began my next career in public affairs, where I quickly observed that most of my colleagues were women, as was my first boss, Hilda Wilson. I’ve worked with a lot of professionals, but no one had her laser beam focus. I can so vividly remember the new client meetings where our host would download a ton of detail about his or her business, most of it relevant, and my head would be swimming with myriad details and possible strategies when, Bang! Hilda would summarize the highlights in clear, concise phrases. Not only was the potential new client impressed, but my admiration of her innate abilities kept climbing. They also explained why she was always a go-to board member for Murray Koffler, the dynamic founder and remarkable philanthropist of Shoppers Drug Mart. I later became his speechwriter and my wordsmithing came under the same laser editing Hilda exercised on any communications coming out of her agency, Investor Relations Canada Limited, the first Canadian firm to specialize in financial PR.
In closing, a note of hope and inspiration for Canadian companies without women directors today. At your next board meeting, take a vote: “Are we practicing gender conceit?” The results will either set you free or confirm what everyone will see as the degree of your self delusion.