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Leadership Matters | Putting people back at the heart of the business



This week, Élisabeth Deschênes, president of ZA Communication and co-founder of the Alliance de la feminisation du leadership, which is holding a second free virtual symposium on October 27, answers our questions about leadership.

Q. Since the creation of the Alliance for the feminization of leadership in 2020, where is your group?

R. Our first symposium, in October 2021, brought together more than 400 leaders and key players and highlighted several findings and possible solutions. Following these realizations and these observations, the Alliance tabled a declaration in the summer of 2022 in order to alert the various levels of government to these issues and especially to the solutions it proposes.

Although great progress has been made in recent decades, an imbalance persists and women face many cultural and systemic obstacles, stereotypes and prejudices that have major impacts on many levels.

Q. Do you have any examples?

R. On the social level with unsuitable programs, public under-representation, devaluation of their skills. Or on the organizational level with limited access to funding, support, retention, and compensation and evaluation systems that are not conducive to their progress. And finally, on the individual level with a lack of female role models, a higher mental workload and a very present “impostor” syndrome.

In relation to the entrepreneurial culture, we heard during previous panels that it represents a barrier to entry for women. One then wonders who is specifically responsible for initiating this change in entrepreneurial culture. Perhaps the state or financial institutions also have a role to play in access to finance, for example? And how can they change the entrepreneurial culture when these institutions themselves have systemic barriers internally?

Putting people back at the heart of the company will enable the evolution of business models.

Q. How can our organizations and businesses hope to move in this direction?

R. It must happen through alliances, groups, consultation, but above all, these are gestures that must be made daily and which must come to confront this trivialization of the fact that we often put the other aside without even knowing realize it.

The situation of demographic transition that we are experiencing is decisive economically in all workplaces. This creates an opportunity in particular for women to occupy the space and for workplaces to become more inclusive.

To deliver business strategies, transformations of audits, we must challenge our client on its creation of value for all of its stakeholders: “Are you destroying the planet? What are you doing for the human? Are you including Together, we will realize that we have the same challenges to overcome, that we all have a mini-part of the solution, and maybe it will be resolved faster than we think.

Q. For those unfamiliar with the concept: what is the feminization of leadership?

R. The feminization of leadership, as we understand it, is one of the responses to the current imbalance. It’s a global approach which of course includes the important issues of parity, equality, glass ceiling, but also to act on all the traditional management mechanisms of organizations.

It is a way of being, a mental and strategic posture that calls for more inclusive, conscious, and human leadership in gender and cultural diversification. It is an agent of transformation which has a positive impact on the values, norms and ethics of life in society. The feminization of leadership is an imperative for all members of society, because it makes it possible to approach leadership in a time of complexity from a different angle.

For brevity, the interview has been edited.

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