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Rethinking Leadership: Hiring and Retaining Diverse Women Leaders

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A workplace is only as strong as its team. It’s crucial that workplaces learn how to support, retain, and advance women leaders. Here is the second part of a three-part series on women in leadership. This week, three trailblazing leaders were asked about how they cultivate more supportive workplaces for women, and empower all women to lead.

How do you make sure you’re hiring and retaining diverse women leaders, including women of color and gender non-conforming folks? How do you celebrate diverse ideas on your team?

Jasmine Ramze Rezaee

Senior Marketing and Advocacy Officer at YWCA Toronto, Board Member at Social Planning Toronto and Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services


Value systems are very important. The values of the current leaders of an organization shape and affect the organization’s culture, including its recruitment and hiring processes. So I do think a genuine commitment to equity and inclusion – and an appreciation for what that actually entails – by the leaders of an organization is necessary for change to occur.

If you value equity, and you want leaders within your organization to represent the diverse communities you work with, this will translate into more inclusive recruitment and hiring practices and result in a more diverse workforce. At this point, it is important to create pathways for women, especially women of colour, women and men with disabilities, and gender-fluid folks, to advance into more senior leadership positions. Competent Black women and other women of colour are passed up for promotion in some organizations – this is an issue.

People with disabilities also face multiple barriers to labour market integration. Many of these barriers are systemic in nature and involve deep-rooted prejudices. Differently-abled individuals are passed up for positions due to employer ignorance – not a lack of ability to do the work. I’m thinking particularly of young adults on the Autism Spectrum who face challenges entering the labour market. Inclusivity is not just a buzzword: it requires a continuous, active commitment to tackle these issues. The government has a role to play in this, as do employers and post-secondary institutions. There is still much progress to be made.

Heather Barnabe

CEO at G(irls)20

G(irls)20 is really fortunate to have a global community of brilliant young womxn that surround us and drive us to always do better. While we are a small team, we are diverse and work closely with our community to bring an intersectional lens to our programs. From training to evaluations, we apply an equity lens to our staff, our program participants, and our stakeholders. We see the results of that approach in the diversity of our programming. For example, our Canada-wide Girls on Boards program had 72% participants in 2018 identify as racialized, LGBTQ or Indigenous.

But we can always do better and one action we’ve taken was the creation of our program Steering Committees. These committees are comprised of our program participants and provide us with feedback and recommendations for program improvements. As we strive to be a youth-led, intersectional organization, these voices are critical and we continue to learn and grow from them.

Abena Offeh-Gyimah

Founder and CEO of AddaBlooms, Natural Foods

A core aspect of Adda Blooms is making a long-term investment in the lives and wellbeing of women. This is crucial to the sustainability of our supply chain, business structure, and environmental impact. Where and how we source our foods impacts the lives of women harvesters, produces, and their communities. A key aspect of our focus is to create employable skills for women who face multiple barriers to employment.

Our recruitment process emphasizes encouraging candidates to be their authentic and transparent selves. Thus, gender equity is weaved into our hiring process to create a team and a work culture that seeks to invest in and create sustainable livelihoods. As a growing enterprise, we work towards incorporating wraparound supports that address barriers and needs that often make it a challenge to retain and grow the careers of women. In addition, we celebrate diverse ideas by honoring the different life experiences and ensuring that team members are included in various aspects of decision-making processes.

Learn More:

Rethinking Leadership: Inclusive Leadership Qualities That Work
On International Women’s Day, Let’s Remove These Six Barriers to Women’s Leadership
I Belong Here and I Deserve to Succeed: Supporting Women Entrepreneurs of Colour

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