Opinion: Diversity and creativity in industry essential to Canada’s future

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To paraphrase Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that capital investment is vital to any industry’s growth and longevity. But social investment is equally important, especially in the face of increasingly difficult economic headwinds.

We hear it on a daily basis: Canada is confronting significant challenges. From decreasing economic productivity to persistent inflation, the absence of housing affordability amid a growing population and higher health-care costs, there are growing demands on both government and the private sector. Layered on top is the changing geopolitical context as relationships with the country’s long-standing allies and trading partners are strained alongside the need to have appropriate policy support to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emission targets.

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These are generational challenges that demand a multiplicity of perspectives, experiences, thoughts and ideas.

As leaders in Canada’s business community, we want to draw attention as International Women’s Day was celebrated on Friday. This occasion gives Canadians an opportunity to embrace the growing presence of women in the workplace, particularly in non-traditional and senior leadership capacities.

Research shows that organizations that are diverse at the board and senior management levels are more likely to outperform their peers, twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets, and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

For the oil and natural gas sector, diversity and inclusion enable operators to produce reliable energy, deliver shareholder value and create workforces that represent the regions and communities where the industry is active. In addition, the industry is focused on creating work environments that support and develop all employees, fostering a more effective and inclusive workplace that contributes to better business outcomes.

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The industry recognizes the value that a diverse and talented workforce can bring to individual companies and to the whole industry. Promotion of diversity allows for different perspectives, thoughts and experiences, mitigates against “group think” (common biases) and enables companies to benefit from all available talent while providing meaningful employment.

Many companies are actively implementing programs to increase female representation at all levels, continually identifying opportunities to expand diversity and inclusion. Those efforts are leading to metrics such as 30 per cent of all employees in the upstream oil and natural gas sector being women, increased representation in engineering pathways and senior management, and the closing of the pay gap between male and female employees in comparable roles. In fact, when it comes to engineering roles, the gender pay gap has been completely erased.

Are we there yet? Not yet. We still need to see more women in the C-suite of energy companies. That’s why we are excited to see a first among the oilsands producers with MEG Energy appointing Darlene Gates to succeed outgoing CEO Derek Evans, effective May 1.

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International Women’s Day is an opportunity to look at our progress. We also recognize that we must not become complacent about the rights we have come to take for granted. These are directly linked to women’s employment progression and success outcomes, not to mention economic productivity.

Further progress will come down to listening and collaborating, taking a step back from politically motivated stances to honestly hear and assess alternate points of view. We say we value new perspectives offered by women and other groups; if that’s true, we must openly listen to and include those views. Open dialogue and working together are the hallmarks of diversity in the workplace.

It will take persistence, creativity and a committed collective effort to tackle our challenges and unleash Canada’s future potential. Let’s celebrate the strides that have been made, and the opportunities that follow when we include diverse perspectives, philosophies and lived experiences to tackle our greatest challenges.

Lisa Baiton is president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Deborah Yedlin is president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

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