The first WEPs principle is to establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality (http://www.weprinciples.org/Site/Principle1/). I’ve been leading people for over 30 years, from my time in the Air Cadets as a teenager, to a long and successful military career, and as a volunteer with community groups and professional associations. I’ve worked with and for leaders at all levels. The best leaders set the tone for their organizations by sharing their vision, giving their staff the tools and training they need to accomplish their mission, and setting goals.
One of my mentors taught me that if you really want to know what a leader supports, look beyond what they say to what they do. Leaders who support diversity in the work place do more than signing policies and spouting politically correct words; they take action. They sponsor women for leadership roles within their organizations. They establish programs and approve policy changes to support gender equality. I’d like to share the story of a leader who took action to increase the representation of women. It’s only in retrospect that I realize how remarkable he was.
In 1993, I was posted to 403 Tactical Helicopters Squadron in Gagetown, New Brunswick; the home of the Army. There were very few women in uniform, particularly officers. The Commanding Officer specifically requested that women officers be posted to his unit. He wanted to have female officers lead the increasing number of women Air Force technicians. That summer three women officers were posted in; joining the one woman pilot. One of my first assigned tasks was to teach a course called Mixed Gender Integration with the Squadron Chief Warrant Officer (Sqn CWO), a long service tough as nails professional airman. When I asked the Sqn CWO how he would like to divide the teaching material, he told me that it was simple I would teach the course, and he would enforce what I taught. Shortly after the course was delivered, all inappropriate posters and calendars came down. In the two years I was there, no complaints or concerns were raised by the women in the Sqn.
The Commanding Officer of 403 Sqn was a male champion for change. Not because someone told him to, but because he was an excellent leader. He treated me the same way that he treated all of his officers; expecting me to do my job which included leading my people and supporting the Sqn. He made sure I had the opportunity to learn new skills and further develop as a leader.
I’ve met many great leaders from all walks of life who consciously work to create a culture where under-represented people are valued for the skills they bring to the group. These leaders make a point of getting to know their people to learn who they are and what they aspire to achieve. They value people for their talents and contribution, encouraging them to grow and achieve further success by giving them assignments that challenge them.
It took me longer than I intended to post this blog, but I am spreading the WEPs message. I’ve approached the Chambers of Commerce in my area to offer to deliver the WEPs talk and I’m writing the rest of this blog series. On December 2nd 2013; I visited Ottawa where I met with Liberal MP Ms. Kirsty Duncan, to speak about WEPs. In September 2014, I’ll be delivering the WEPs talk to a group of 200 people. I’m doing my best to “walk the talk”; won’t you join me?