Men Lean In Summary - Lean in Canada

This year’s Men Lean In event was one of our best yet!

The room was abuzz all night with excitement as the discussion spotlighted the male perspective of prominent issues that women face in the workplace.

The panel consisted of men who know the importance of female empowerment and are helping to lead the way in gender equality:

Rahul Bhardwaj – President & CEO of the Institute of Corporate Directors;

Declan Brady – Senior Vice President of Field Services for Bell Canada and;

Martin Langlois–Partner at Stikeman Elliott.

The dialogue moderator was award winning journalist and Global TV anchor Farrah Nasser, whose questions generated deep and meaningful conversation amongst the panelists.

Diversity, within the role of high leadership positions in business and on boards was a hot topic that was touched upon several times. When asked by Farrah, “What difference have you noticed of boards that are all male and ones that have diversity in them?” the panelists shared the sentiment that women on a board definitely improve the level of conversation and therefore the results.  

 “A more diverse environment provides more value, learning experiences and engagement than one that has a large majority of people who are similar or the same,” shared Declan.

Rahul, a seasoned board member himself, shared insight into the changes in policy that mandate opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds in C-suite type positions.

“The CBCA (Canadian Business Corporations Act) has expanded their definition of diversity to include a designated group which includes ethnic diversity, racial diversity and more. Companies that operate under this act need to explain what they’re doing on their boards in relation to these designated groups. Either you’re complying with it or you need to explain why you’re not.” he said.

It was also noted that the long standing issue the equal pay disparity will require better policies and the right infrastructure in places of work to close the gap.

When it comes to moving the needle on diversity in the workplace, unconscious bias is a barrier that Farrah pointed out. With deep reflection, each panellist added to the answer.

Martin noted that the best way to address unconscious bias is not to be hasty in your decision making process while Declan added that having a team that isn’t afraid to call you out if they spot it is important as well. Rahul emphasized that giving yourself permission (as well as being given permission by others) to be a courageous leader is where the breakdown of unconscious bias begins.

As the evening progressed the Me Too movement was discussed and it brought out strong emotions from the panellists.

Each of them stated their dislike for the rise of fear and distrust in working relationships as a negative by-product of the movement. They opened up about the sad erosion of trust in our society today which has diminished the opportunities for men and women to operate in a space of reasonableness as they develop their working relationships outside of the confines of work. Open conversations and rules for everyone to follow are ways that this can be avoided as the panelists pointed out.

Before the evening concluded, the gentlemen shared their personal insights on what has worked for them in making change to tackle the very issues discussed.

Develop trust in your team and make it an open, recurring conversation. You’d be surprised at the ideas that your team comes up with that can address diversity issues you might not have noticed before.” highlighted Declan.

Rahul noted that, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast. You can have the greatest strategies in the world but if you don’t have the right culture you won’t get anywhere.”

As the audience members asked their questions, Martin highlighted that “sponsorship and mentorship are critical” and ensuring that truly inclusive events are offered to help break down locker room culture in organizations.

The underlying tone of the in-depth conversation was that we mustn’t be afraid to dig deep to the root of the cause so we can create lasting change and it takes both men and women to see the importance of these issues that affect everyone, not just women.

Thank you to Arcadian Court for a wonderful evening in your beautiful event space and thank you to our sponsors Bell, Ivey Business School, and Tealish. We also want to extend a thank you as well to our panellists for sharing your time and unique perspective on this important and ongoing conversation. To all of our attendees, thank you for your support and contribution to dialogue as well. We look forward to seeing you at our next event in 2020!


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