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Corporate Social Responsibility | First, the women



They fill half of these positions in large corporations in the United States. Who ? guidelines for sustainable development. How to explain this rare parity in one of the otherwise essentially masculine branches of finance?

Looking through a list drawn up by the recruitment firm Weinreb-Group, it is tempting to say that the cohort of ESG experts – for environmental, social and governance criteria – was equal in 2021, unlike CEO positions (8.2 % women, according to Fortune 500) or CFO (13.2% women), for example.

The relatively recent interest in corporate social responsibility could explain the significant place of women. But that’s not all.


Milla Craig, founder of ESG integration consulting firm Millani

At the start, it was often women who were found around the table. Perhaps because less tangible subjects interest women. They work more often in collaboration, as a team, too. And to succeed in social responsibility, it takes this: convincing colleagues to provide information, data.

Milla Craig, founder of ESG integration consulting firm Millani

“Until two years ago, there was not a lot of money on the table to do it, so it took enthusiasts”, continues Mme Craig.

“The environment is part of the well-being of societies,” adds Pauline D’Amboise, Corporate Secretary and Vice-President, Governance and Sustainable Development, of Mouvement Desjardins. Women have always been involved in social considerations. In Quebec, I am thinking of the Réseau des femmes en environnement or of Mères au front [initié par Laure Waridel et Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette]. They are becoming leaders because it is a fight they have been fighting for years. It became opportunities, then business models. »


Pauline D’Amboise, Corporate Secretary and Vice-President, Governance and Sustainable Development, Desjardins Group

In business, the fact that ESG considerations have often emerged or have been taken on by the communications and human resources departments of organizations may explain the expertise of women in this business sphere. “There are generally more women in these departments,” notes Michèle Meier, senior vice-president, communications and global marketing, of SNC-Lavalin. They were pioneers, set up programs, laid the foundations. Then it came out of communications to make it more integrated into the business. For me, it’s a leadership position, because it casts a very broad net. There is a movement. It’s a position related to strategy, innovation, it comes from senior management. »

Generalization of the profession

Because the environment and sound governance are becoming standards, the role is taken over more and more by men. “I had the opportunity to follow the evolution of the function on the international level, explains Pauline D’Amboise. When we analyze recruitment for 10 years, we see that the function of “Chief Sustainable Officer” is often held by women. But it becomes more balanced. It is a new branch of business that is becoming the norm. We talk about it in universities. Even MBAs are emerging in ESG and CSR. It is a movement that is here to stay. »

At Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business, it is the courses on responsible finance that attract women the most.


Amr Addas, Director of the Department of Finance at the John Molson School of Business

It’s easier to attract them in sustainable investment. They identify more with these issues. But for two or three years, the guys have been more present. They do not have the choice. ESG is becoming a key investment.

Amr Addas, Director of the Department of Finance at the John Molson School of Business

It’s also a matter of interest to Generation Z, according to Amr Addas.

At a time when standards are becoming clearer, more and more responsible investments are being demanded and the move towards zero carbon emissions, the function is becoming official and it is dangerous for organizations to turn a blind eye. Their performance depends on it. “Capital markets are beginning to value this type of information,” explains Milla Craig. So the CFO, the board wants such information. More large companies, financial institutions, pension funds are getting into sustainable finance. Women are thus increasingly entering the finance sector, which is moving towards sustainable finance. »

COP26 to the rescue

According to ESG specialist Anne-Marie Hubert, it is inspiring to work for investors who want to create value. “On November 3, during COP26, we said that we were going to require the disclosure and the creation of a single standard organization, explains the managing partner for Eastern Canada of EY. Before November 3, there were over 60. You chose what to disclose. It was not comparable. There, an agency will require consistent disclosure. »

Investors are increasingly pushing for equality and inclusion, for sustainable finance, she adds. “Women are interested in doing this kind of finance that has an impact on communities and the planet. But there, everyone can contribute, because we can no longer do our job without taking ESG into account. We are at a pivotal moment to attract women and men to do finance differently, to commit to the common good. You still have to make money, but you can create value and have a positive impact on society. »

Everyone feels an acceleration since last year. Many organizations are now in intense search to fill positions in social responsibility. Two-thirds of organizations are affected by the lack of qualified ESG personnel, according to a Deloitte study. “There, we integrate the ESG offer into all our financial activities with our members and our clients”, notes Pauline D’Amboise.


Anne-Marie Hubert, Managing Partner for Eastern Canada at EY

ESG factors are integrated into just about every investment decision.

Anne-Marie Hubert, Managing Partner for Eastern Canada at EY

The great door of the financial community is thus opening to women, in particular thanks to their knowledge of sustainable financing. “As they were there before, they have the expertise to take it to the next level. This is how we are going to correct the statistic of 14% of women in the financial sector. »

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