Breaking the glass ceiling: empowering girls to become tomorrow’s leaders

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Empowering girls with leadership experience can play a critical role in breaking the glass ceiling that keeps so many from realizing their true potential.  

Women’s participation in the Canadian workforce has been on the rise since the end of World War II, however current statistics paint a stark picture of today’s reality and show us how much more progress needs to be made when it comes to women’s leadership:  

Despite these statistics and what they reveal about gender inequality at work, we believe there is hope – and it starts with empowering girls to take the lead.  

Empowering girls to unleash their potential

Every girl has power and potential. Changing the status quo as we know it means fostering unwavering support for all girls in all areas of life so they can be confident, be heard and make critical decisions. Most importantly, girls have the right to equal opportunities, equal treatment and equal value.  

These are the beliefs that fuel our Girls Belong Here program which has created opportunities for young women to step into high-profile, professional roles for a day to demonstrate that women belong at all levels of leadership.  

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s program took place digitally, with leaders sharing their role and creating space for our youth ambassadors to offer their voices, stories, ideas and solutions. 

Meet 3 inspiring girls who participated in this year’s program and hear what wise advice they have for others who have hopes and dreams of professional success.  

Rita, 20

Seat share with Dave McKay, President & CEO, RBC 

I believe it’s necessary for young girls to experience and be provided with leadership opportunities in order to be inspired, motivated, and, in a way, reassured; reassured that there IS space for women at high positions, reassured that we CAN lead and be in charge, reassured that we DO have the right to share our voice and be bold. 

My week was filled with many virtual calls, all of which allowed me to meet with inspiring executives from Canada and abroad.  With each person I talked to, I learned about their career path, their values, and the importance of the work that they do. I also listened to the challenges that they overcame to reach their positions. I received words of encouragement and reassurance that were not only optimistic, but empowering.  

One quote that stuck with me was: “Start with the end in mind.” It immediately inspired me to take a different outlook on many things; to begin each task and journey with a clear vision of the end goal, and to think not just one, or two, but many years into the future. Although goals can change and circumstances are unpredictable, beginning with the end in mind is a good way to become grounded and stay focused. 

Felicia, 21

Seat share with Julia Anderson, Interim Chief Executive Officer, CanWaCH 

Julia was able to demystify the impossibilities of being a woman CEO, and how strenuous this can be on your relationship with your volunteers but moreover, on yourself. Julia was able to teach me the importance of taking a step back and not feeling insufficient in doing so. As we are both Presidents of non-for-profits, we both value the work we do, however it is vital to accommodate our mental health needs to the current state of the world.  

I have learned that stepping back and not scheduling 5 to 8 meetings a day is OK. As this mentality would be impossible to accomplish in a pre-covid world. I have learned that stepping back, and delegating tasks makes me a better leader in training my younger volunteers for my eventual departure. I have learned that girls and women can do absolutely everything but we do not have to do it alone, we must do it together.  

Finally, I learned that there is no universal way in becoming the best CEO, all Julia and I can do is be as authentic to ourselves, correct our misjudgments and create spaces for other women alongside us.  

Rupali, 21

Seat share with Cole Pinnow, President, Pfizer Canada 

I learned a great deal about facing and overcoming challenges. With the right mindset and team, the impossible is possible! 

My key takeaways were:   

  • On your career journey, things don’t always go as planned but that doesn’t mean they are going wrong 
  • I learned that being uncomfortable can be a good thing that pushes you to learn and grow. If you’re too comfortable, it is time to challenge yourself and move forward to something new! Constantly push yourself out of your comfort zone and accept new challenges.  
  • Collaboration amongst a cross functional team plays a critical role in scientific innovation and pushing the envelope for what can be accomplished! 
  • Reflecting on a common goal is an important component of achieving team success. Even when there are challenges along the way, revisiting the ultimate goal can provide clarity and a path forward. 

When I was asked to give advice from my perspective, I talked about the valuable role mentorship can play in the workplace and with youth. I advised them to share their unique experiences, insights, and journey with young people and to take on reciprocal mentorship relationships whenever possible. 

Learn more about girls belong here 

If you believe like we do that empowering girls to become tomorrow’s leaders can help advance gender equality in the workplace, then we invite you to learn more about Girls Belong Here and see how you or your organization can get involved.