I attended a Business and Professional Women (BPW) Calgary Chapter dinner presentation with guest speaker Madame Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E.   Madame Landry is the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and a passionate advocate for human justice in all areas of gender, disabilities, religious and ethnic rights.

Her presentation segued to challenges that women in the workforce face including biases, stigmas and stereotyping.  She is steadfast on seeing the breakdown of barriers that stand in the way and moving the needle for women in Canada. Madame Landry takes a pragmatic stance with the admission that “laws don’t ensure change, people do”.

Gender bias, including self-bias is still common place in the workforce with women often feeling they need to over achieve just to stay even. Studies show that men tend to be more confident in their abilities – going after positions with fewer qualifications.  Men will apply for a new position with 64% of the criteria while women need to see themselves with 100%.

Eroding long-standing social norms and societal barriers is a slow process, often requiring generations.  However, something every women can do is take ownership of her own internal self-inflicted biases.  This means committing to becoming more self-aware of one’s own unconscious negative beliefs and assumptions that can undermine confidence, a sense of belonging and perception of value.

She stated “If left unchecked, these biases can do great harm”.  Intelligent, capable and resourceful women with sharp minds can fall prey to feeling inadequate or incapable of taking on bigger challenges and higher positions – the trademark of Impostor Syndrome. It is up to the individual to develop a deeper knowing so that she is not vulnerable to the inevitable put-downs and put-aside tactics of others – even other women.

In the end, it is up to each of us to clear our path to success. I loved what Madame Landry said about how she overcome some of her own challenges and barriers as a young lawyer, “I had to be me to succeed”.  Indeed, it’s all we can be.

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