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Woman of the Day 2023

To celebrate and inspire women in Canada, the BCCTC launched the ‘Woman of the Day’ Campaign (WoD) on February 25th, 2017, as part of BCCTC’s Women in Business event.

The campaign profiles a variety of women, from entrepreneurs to those established on the corporate ladder. The aim is to demonstrate the huge amount that women have achieved in Canada so far, to feel proud and to encourage women to be unstoppable.

Their interviews also provide an insight into the issues they have faced and their opinions on issues that women still face in business in 21st Century Canada.

To end this year's International Women's Day celebrations, we are delighted to present Sharon Barnes-Simmonds CPA, CGA, FCCA, MBA, Chief Financial Officer at Action Against Hunger / Action contre la Faim Canada, our BCCTC's ‘Woman of the Day’ 2023.

1. What is your experience of a glass ceiling?

My experience of a glass ceiling was early on in my career where I was told that I was earning enough for the role that I was doing. At the time I was earning $75,000 and I was quite taken aback because around that same time it was a very common comment (within the immigrant circle) that there is a glass ceiling for immigrants where earnings are capped at $75K for the year, and this is how I realized that my head was now bouncing on that glass ceiling, and it refused to be smashed! For the role which I had at the time, I was also fully aware that there were many other similar roles (both within the organization as well as in other organizations), which had either comparable workload and responsibility or even less of a responsibility than I had at the time, however those individuals were earning considerably higher than I was earning. It took me quite some time before I was able to put a small crack in that proverbial ceiling and then finally, I was barely able to climb through it! I have no idea what the ceiling is these days, but I am sure that it still exists. My advice to women (and especially immigrant women), is to never give up, keep pounding your head against that ceiling and eventually you will smash your way through it!

2. What is your opinion on quotas and the gender pay gap?

The question I have is, why are quotas necessary? I find quotas unhealthy for forward thinking organizations. People who are on the receiving end (usually women or persons from underserved or racialized groups) are not left with a positive feeling about their capabilities and are usually burdened with a feeling of having to work ten times harder in order to prove that they are deserving of the job. I believe that instead of pitching quotas and having organizations check a box to confirm the token hires, it would be better to instill a culture of hiring persons from other countries or other groups as long as they have the qualifications and requisite experience. It is very unfortunate that even today hiring managers and recruiters are still putting aside resumes which have certain names that are obviously not of Canadian origin.

With respect to the gender pay gap, it is said that this is a myth in Canada because it doesn’t exist seeing that in Canada it is illegal to pay women less than men. Well, the data from Statistics Canada data shows that a gender pay gap still exists, because on average, women working full time earn 75 cents for every dollar earned by men. That gap gets much wider that 25 cents for those women who face multiple forms of discrimination including racialized women, indigenous women, immigrant women and women with disabilities. Now, take this just one step further and consider a woman who intersects on at least 2 or 3 of these and just imagine the pay gap for a black immigrant woman here in Canada!

3. What do you think the #MeToo movement needs to do in order to make a huge impact on women’s professional lives?

The MeToo movement has created a pathway where equity and social justice have become the twin peaks of how women can empower each other. It has been the foremost movement of our times to challenge the patriarchal construct that needs to be reimagined. It started the conversations which began to question the status quo, and this has brought a powerful voice to the issues around equity and social justice and situated it squarely in the workplace. The movement’s impact on women’s professional lives has therefore positioned a pathway to create change and engender a new perspective on how both sexes co-exist and this has started to shift the power dynamics, however whilst the impact has created a stir in Western democracies, there is still much more that can be done for other regions. Women’s rights on a worldwide scale have not yet been fully impacted by this movement and this is where I believe they could consider how best to spread its impact on a global level.

4. We’ve seen the “burn out” effect on women lately, leaving the workforce, from Jacinda Ardenn to Tina Pugliese… what do you think of this?

Burnout has been a growing challenge in the workplace and it has been even more prevalent for women. As a matter of fact, the latest survey from Future Forum conducted in August 2022 indicated that women are 32% more likely to face burnout than men. This is definitely not surprising because women are juggling a lot more responsibilities, switching from home to office, to social groups such as church and you can continue to name it. The pandemic exacerbated this situation because women (and especially mothers) began to do these juggling acts trying to balance home responsibilities, with professional responsibilities, all while schooling their kids from home, and all of this was happening under one roof in the same space. That is the stuff that mental stress is made of! COVID-19 has therefore significantly amplified the previous inequalities and imbalances that existed between the sexes in the workspace.

High performing women such as Jacinda Ardern and Tina Pugliese took the courage to step away from their careers and were brave enough to name it as burnout. It is really great that they did this because when women on these public platforms speak up it encourages other women and says to them that its ok to take a mental break and to figure out whether their health and well-being is now at risk. Women should be encouraged and should feel very comfortable to make the decision about whether the roles they are currently occupying is the right one for them at this point in their lives or whether they should look for a role with less hours or a different industry etc.

Unfortunately, for many reasons, its women more so than men who are required to balance these complex set of responsibilities on a regular basis as they try to balance their professional responsibilities with their home and family responsibilities. Women are therefore placed in an unfair position in the workplace and will be less likely to get that valuable promotion when compared to their male counterpart as they have the added baggage of mental stress.

Special thanks to ACCA Canada for nominating Sharon!

Sharon Barnes-Simmonds CPA, CGA, FCCA, MBA

Chief Financial Officer at Action Against Hunger / Action contre la Faim Canada.

"Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women's equality. Collectively we can all #EmbraceEquity." International Women's Day


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