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"Be proactive about supporting upcoming women" - Jackie Burns, Hays Canada

Posted by Rowan O'Grady, Hays Canada President on Tuesday, Mar 8, 2016

Jackie imageCurrently responsible for key aspects of the people strategy including training and development programs, performance management and common people practices, Jackie joined the business in 2001 in Glasgow, Scotland. Jackie relocated to Canada as part of the start-up team, responsible for opening the Vancouver office in 2004. Four years ago, Jackie was promoted to Vice President for Canada’s Western Region, where she has built a thriving business, hitting pertinent records and making it one of Canada’s top performing regions over the past few years.

In your opinion is there a difference between how men and women plan to progress in their careers?

I’ve met both men and women who have a clear career plan, and those who don’t. However, I’d suggest that in general men are still more vocal about their career aspirations, whereas women may rely on being asked or noticed. We need to develop channels where it is expected and accepted for all employees to express their ambitions, rather than relying on ad hoc communication of expectations.

For example, at Hays we have explicit conversations with all new starters about the possible career paths they can explore, and what results would be required to reach those new levels. Around the two year mark we also interview employees about their career goals, and use psychometric testing to look at their strengths, where they will be of the most value to the company and how that fits with their own goals. This process is crucial to encourage employees to think about their career long-term, and it supports both men and women having an active role in their careers.

Globally, 45% of women do not think they have the same career opportunities as men. What do you think about this? What is Hays Americas doing to reduce the gender opportunity gap?

I think it’s unfortunate that so many women feel they have fewer opportunities, and I think that some of this is due to poor communication from employers. Employers need to show that women can reach the same level as their male colleagues with specific examples of possible career paths. This is something I think Hays does well.

Hays Americas has many women, including myself, in executive positions.  I started as a consultant with Hays in Scotland almost 16 years ago and worked my way up to leading a team, establishing a new office in Vancouver, taking over as VP of that region, and now overseeing our People and Culture strategy across the continent. It’s a clear, achievable career path that anyone starting as a consultant today can aspire to.

Our programs are very results focused, it’s a true meritocracy. This reduces the opportunities for gender bias to impact progression, and we have a fairly even gender split across all levels of managers and executives.

Do you have any advice for female professionals who are in, or are looking to work in, a management or leadership role?

Don’t restrict your ambitions based on your gender. Find a role model, male or female, that you can aspire to and ask for advice – most people are willing to give it. I think anyone who aspires to be an executive should find a mentor who can help guide them on their career path.

Once you reach those management positions, be proactive about supporting upcoming women. Being a mentor is incredibly rewarding because their success becomes your success.

Do you have any advice for business leaders trying to improve gender equality in their organizations?

You need to see this as a good business practice, not just a feel-good initiative. Recent research from EY and the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that companies with more gender balanced senior leadership and boards have better financial results. A balanced workplace can offer different insights from different angles so it is good to identify and appoint a range of skills and viewpoints in order to leverage strengths and weaknesses.

Consider flexible family policies. For example, in the UK job sharing and part time roles are very common, but I don’t see them implemented as much in Canada. I think companies can be unnecessarily strict about what a work day looks like, or how a work team has to operate. Hays is very supportive of people creating roles that are the right fit for their lives and the company. If we have an effective, productive employee then we will take steps to keep them in the business, and we’ll work with them to develop a work structure that works for everyone.

Beyond individual companies, we need to do a better job of promoting careers to both genders equally. Educating through schools and outreach programs to attract women to traditionally male industries, and vice versa, means changing those stereotypes in our teens and young adults, who will then change the industries they are entering.


Visit the Hays Canada gender diversity page

Download the Global Gender Diversity report

Read the interview with Bell Canada VP Michelle Bourque

Learn how Microsoft Canada is acting to address industry-wide gender disparity

Talk to Hays VP Jackie Burns about gender diversity and improving workplace culture.


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