Yesterday, I joined Maryam Monsef, Minister for Status of Women, to publicly announce Government of Canada funding for our Canada-wide Girls on Boards program. This fantastic initiative promises to build the leadership capacity of young women and improve diversity for participating social profit boards. However, more than being a fantastic initiative, we feel it’s a necessary one.

In Canada, women comprise about 12% of corporate board membership and 45% of boards don’t have a single female board member. While community boards have greater levels of gender diversity, the voice of young women, particularly young women of colour, is still underrepresented.

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In many ways, women hear from a young age that they are not leaders. Consider this story. One afternoon, i was taking care of my nephew and niece, 5 and 4 respectively. He announced that they were going to play a game and each had to choose a super hero. He proudly proclaimed that he would be Batman. My niece thought for a second and then came up with hers – she would like to be the prime minister of Canada. My nephew was quick to tell her she couldn’t be the prime minister because girls aren’t leaders.

You can imagine my surprise and, sadly, her dismay. That was the superhero she wanted to be and she heard that, due to her gender, it wasn’t going to be her superhero of the day.

It’s moments like that that remind me why I love G(irls)20 and other organizations that work hard to provide leadership opportunities for young women. With strategic initiatives, like Girls on Boards, young women will complete the program feeling qualified, competent and confident in their skills and contribution.

In addition, these future board members are paired with established female volunteer coaches and mentors who have a treasure trove of experience. They will offer critical guidance to these young women throughout the program.

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For our participating boards, this is an opportunity to demonstrate diversity leadership in both their organization and their larger community, serving as an example of the importance of hearing the underrepresented voices of young women.

Empowered young women and broader social change are the two significant outcomes of this program and Girls20 could not be prouder to have partnered with the Government of Canada to design and implement Girls on Boards. Be sure to check out our Future Board Members and Coaches and follow us on social media.

By Heather Barnabe, CEO, G(irls)20

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