Like all Canadians, I can’t wait for things to get back to normal. Funny thing is that while we are all looking forward to it, no one can say with certainty what post-pandemic normal will actually be. The end state may still be a bit unclear, but, in my opinion, one of the key elements to achieving it is very much in focus. Let me use an analogy to explain.
“It’s the right thing to do” Linda Hohol, on the Canadian Chamber’s Council for Women’s Advocacy
Linda Hohol’s career took her from the front lines of one of Canada’s five major banks to its executive ranks. There was no deliberate plan to work in the financial sector but she ended up spending most of her career in financial services.
Linda Hohol retired as President of TSX Venture Exchange in 2007. During her five-year tenure as president, she improved the reputation and credibility of the exchange, creating a strong national brand. Prior to the TSX, Linda spent 26 years with CIBC, 11 of which were in executive roles, including Senior Vice President for Alberta and North West Territories, and as Executive Vice President of Wealth Management.
Since leaving the day-to-day corporate world, Ms. Hohol has served on many boards, including ATB Financial, the Calgary Airport Authority, EllisDon Construction Ltd. and Export Development Canada and currently chairs the national board of the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD). In 2020, she also joined the Council for Women’s Advocacy (CWA), an initiative of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. Linda also sat on the Chamber’s board in years past.
Late in 2020, we talked to Linda about her career and her reasons for being involved with the CWA.
Having been involved in the financial life of Canada for many years, many bank-authored reports come across her desk. She was struck by the number of reports she read during 2020 that highlighted the impact of women on Canada’s economy. One report cited the fact that if Canadians could reach true equality/parity in the workforce, that Canada’s economic outlook would be boosted by $100 billion (RBC). Another bank, through a grant application process with their women entrepreneur clients, noted that 65% of these clients were either struggling or were going to have to shut down. It’s clear that women have become a vital part of the economy and to reach our full potential, they must be fully participating. The “women’s issue” has become an economic issue and, from Linda’s perspective, it’s the “right thing to do” to be part of change that benefits the whole of the economy.
Asked about the CWA’s list of five recommendations, Linda cited affordable and acceptable childcare at the top of the list of priorities. Not having access to reliable childcare is an impediment to entrepreneurs and the corporate world that, in turn, affects Canada’s economy.
At the height of Linda’s corporate life, she commuted from Calgary for work on Bay Street. A short, long blonde-haired bank teller who rose to the C-suites within the Canadian financial world, Linda admits that it was tough for her in an environment that was male-dominated. The work world says that it is good at diversity and inclusion. She shared the analogy that diversity is “being asked to the party” inclusion is “being asked to dance.”
Through initiatives like the CWA, the government can set the bar with programs for diversity but, in the end, it is up to businesses to invite participants to the dance.
The CWA is a cornerstone of the Canadian Chamber’s diversity and inclusion initiative, established to bring the voice and perspectives of women to national policies, inform the Canadian Chamber’s initiatives in advancing the gender equality agenda, and drive meaningful action to address the identified issues and barriers. The CWA will continue to explore recommendations that the federal government can implement to support women through the recovery period, alongside looking at best practices and guidance for the business community.