On March 7th, the Canadian Consulate General of New York co-hosted the 2022 Women in Business Forum in partnership with the Economic Club of New York and the French Consulate General of New York. Now in its fifth year, this annual conference brings together business leaders from Canada, the U.S., and France to discuss opportunities to advance gender equality for women in the workplace. Applying an intersectional lens, this year’s forum focused on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, opportunities for a gender inclusive economic recovery, and the future of work for women.
The day kicked off with a policy maker roundtable, featuring Canada’s Chief Trade Commissioner Sara Wilshaw, French Gender Equality Minister Élisabeth Moreno, and U.S. Department of Labor Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs Thea Lee. Highlighting Canada’s feminist recovery plan, Wilshaw noted, “We know we need to do more to help marginalized communities – especially women, working parents, communities of color, immigrants, and people with disabilities – to become more economically resilient before we face future crises.” Wilshaw took the opportunity to highlight the Government of Canada’s initiatives to support women across the economy, including a $30 billion investment in affordable childcare and early learning and $150 million in programs to reduce barriers for women entrepreneurs. Moreno highlighted France’s measures to address an uptick in gender-based violence during the pandemic, while Lee discussed the role of the private sector in improving women’s working conditions internationally.
Later in the day, Marshall Plan for Moms Founder Reshma Saujani moderated a session on understanding how the pandemic had impacted women with intersecting identities. Royal Bank of Canada’s Deputy Chief Economist Dawn Desjardins said Canada has made “great strides” towards recovery, since women’s labor force participation hit a 30-year low after the onset of the pandemic. However, Desjardins said there was still more needed to helps mothers and women over the age of 55 return to the workforce, pointing to reskilling and job training programs as an option to help female employees become more competitive. The panel also included Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry and MEDEF’s Chairman of the Sustainable Cities Taskforce Gerard Wolf. Reflecting on the Great Resignation in the U.S., Henry called it a “historic uprising of working people led by women across all sectors who are demanding respect us, protect us, and pay us.” Henry said she hoped workers would leverage collective bargaining and the power of unions to fight for transformative policies to build a more inclusive economy, especially for women of color. Wolf emphasized how the pandemic had intensified the burden of care for women around the world, and said he was optimistic about the rise of new female political leaders.
To wrap up the forum, Consul General of Canada in New York Khawar Nasim introduced the CEO roundtable on leadership, featuring Rania Llewellyn, CEO and President of Laurentian Bank; Janice Ellig, CEO of the Ellig Group; and Dominique Senequier, Founder and President of Ardian. The three executives shared their experiences as female business leaders in male dominated sectors, and discussed how the pandemic had shaped their approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion. In regards to the future of work, Llewellyn recalled how Laurentian Bank’s new “work from home first” model was shaped by her experience of running a bank from her kitchen table. Llewellyn encouraged other business leaders to think about how to clearly communicate expectations for hybrid work in order to create a more equal playing field for men and women.
Moderated by Economic Club of New York Chairman Emeritus Marie-Josée Kravis, the conference also featured two fireside chats with keynote speakers Falguni Nayar, CEO of Nykaa.com and Ruth Porat, CFO of Alphabet. Nayar shared how technology and climate change is shaping the future of the beauty business around the world, while Porat emphasized the need for more difital skills building programs to diversify the pipeline of workers and leaders in the technology sector.