Mar 09, 2021

Setting the Foundations is Key to Women Fully Engaging in Canada’s Prosperity: Katie Taylor, Board Chair, RBC

Katie Taylor is the Chair at RBC and the first woman to hold this role at a major Canadian bank.  She is also the former President and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. 

Her early career as a corporate lawyer took her from practicing law within a firm to work in the legal department with the iconic Four Seasons brand. Corporate law and the upper echelons of a hotel chain – both bastions of male culture at the time.  

Katie has recently added her voice and expertise to the others around the table of the Council for Women’s Advocacy (CWA), an initiative of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.  

We sat down last fall with Katie to talk about her career, some of the challenges she has faced and how she hopes that the CWA can make some inroads on the fundamentals that keep women from participating fully in the Canadian economy.  

From Katie’s perspective, women are most often the primary figure in terms of childcare. They take time out or off from their career to bear children and then bear the majority of childcare in most households on an ongoing and unpaid basis.  

In mid-November 2020, the CWA reiterated five steps the federal government can take now to address the critical gap in support for women, working parents, business owners and transitioning employees across the country through the continued COVID-19 crisis.  

When asked about what she feels is the priority for the CWA, she’s banking on support for families in caring for young children. Ms. Taylor feels that many women are struggling with the same issues she and her husband did 30 years ago – who cares for the kids when they’re sick? How is the work in the home divided so that both partners can see and excel at their own goals beyond conquering the laundry piles?  

Now in a position to be mentoring both young men and women, Katie feels that there is much that can be done by institutions to support young parents, but also believes that we need to step up our game. From her vantage point, governments need to figure out childcare and early education programming that gets more women fully participating in the economy.  She also believes that the next generation of parents needs to set out clear expectations of the kinds of compromises they will make as partners to enable success in their individual careers. Without a plan and a partnership, a two-career household will have trouble thriving.  

More broadly, society needs to adjust its ideas on the roles of men and women in the home and at work. Many women entering non-traditional careers talk themselves out of applying for roles that could be perceived as male-only, partly because they believe that their childrearing years will stall their careers.  The same is not the reality for most men. 

Katie’s feeling is that the pandemic has illustrated how much work still has to be done to achieve an equal footing for women in the workforce. Her words are “progress has been glacial” when it comes to making inroads in affordable and reliable daycare and early childhood education.  In her view, these basic supports are “essential infrastructure” required to enable women to become full participants in the Canadian economy and its future prosperity.  

The CWA is a cornerstone of the Canadian Chamberdiversity and inclusion initiative, established to bring the voice and perspectives of women to national policies, inform the Canadian Chambers 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. 

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