Defining Powerful Women

The most powerful woman in Alberta is Mother Nature. She put an exclamation point on that fact earlier this year, and has the ability to show her strength again at the blink of an eye. She creates life, demonstrates balance, ensures humility, demands respect and governs all. Yup, she’s definitely all powerful and is deserving of the top honour.

But, who else is on the list of most powerful women? That’s the question that The Wanderer has posed to the Edmonton community and is looking for submissions before Aug 15th. I’m most interested in the range of candidates, as I believe there should be many.

Many ask why we need to categorize and have separate awards for leaders of various genders? Haven’t we come far enough in the world of equality that we don’t need to have separate awards? Haven’t we increased participation to the point where we no longer need initiatives regarding the status of women? On one hand we have come a long way since the age of The Office; but on the other hand, industry is still dominated by the hunter-gatherer, masculine mentality and is in dire need of gender, generational and geographic diversity at the stewardship level … and by that I mean participation on Boards.

Over the years, I have participated on Boards that were highly diverse as well as on Boards that were incredibly homogenous. What I have learned is that diversity broadens perspectives and enriches the debate at the table … and the organizations have benefited from that immensely. I have come to appreciate that those in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s provide three very different viewpoints on societal, technological and environmental trends, while a balanced mix of men and women create a more comprehensive understanding of how the organization creates value … beyond just profits to include impact on people and their communities.

If we restrict our definition of powerful women only to those that come from the world of business, we greatly miss out on a vast number of leaders with experience originating in the not-for-profit, educational, healthcare and public service sectors … as well as women from the arts and cultural sectors or those who are community league leaders, event organizers, academic researchers and from so many other diverse disciplines that are traditionally not included in the definition of “business leader.”

Contrasting a gender, generational and geographic diverse Board against a room full of 58-year old white males who all come from like-minded industries, I start to appreciate that diversity at the Board level may well begin to unlock the unspeakable topics of executive compensation, environmental impact and societal value.

So, as we consider the fantastic women for submission for the Top 100, lets broaden our definition in a similar manner to how Edmonton-based organizations will benefit from widening their criteria for selecting Boards.

I don’t think Mother Nature had an ounce of business experience, but damn she’d be a great Board Member.