(As originally published on LinkedIn, 16 January 2017)

Inclusive leadership: a Canadian value

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By: Trent Henry, Chairman and CEO at EY Canada

This is an exciting year for Canadians. It marks our nation’s 150th birthday. So as leaders from around the world gather this week in Davos at the World Economic Forum, I’d like to offer my thoughts about Canada, and what our great country has taught me about leadership.

As we look back at where we’ve come from, and ahead to a bright and promising future, it’s a good time to celebrate what it means to be Canadian. And to me, a big part of that is inclusiveness.

Thanks to our nation’s unique history, inclusiveness has been a core value since before our Confederation in 1867. For centuries, people from different backgrounds came together to build communities and develop a new economy. And over the past 150 years, thanks to pioneers and immigrants from all corners of the globe, Canada has become one of the world’s most culturally diverse societies.

Inclusive leadership is a truly Canadian value. There are many examples, but one in particular that resonates is our current prime minister ensuring half of his cabinet ministers were women when he came into office in 2015. In establishing such a high benchmark, the government was signalling to the country — and indeed the world — that it’s long past time that we strive to achieve gender parity in leadership, both in politics and in business.

Some may see this and think, “That’s great in theory, but we have to be realistic.” But it’s entirely realistic in the 21st century. The World Economic Forum’s own current projection for when the world will achieve gender equality is an astonishing 170 years! I’m much more optimistic than that. I firmly believe that we can all move the needle much more quickly if we pull together and view the world — and everything we do — through an inclusive lens. No longer is it considered unusual for women to run for high political office. And the same goes for the C-suite — but we need to keep driving it. What message are we sending our children when we say it will take more than another century and a half to ensure all women have the same opportunities as men?

Gender parity is just one example. I’m proud to see the Canadian value of inclusiveness reflected in our national business community — and globally at EY. At EY, our purpose is doing our part in building a better working world. To achieve that, we’re committed to leading inclusively. A better world is one where we all feel a sense of belonging to a larger group, whether it’s a family, a community, a company or a country. But at the same time it’s one where we’re recognized and respected for what we bring to that group as individuals — our unique talents, strengths and experiences.

The strongest countries are those that embrace inclusiveness as a value; they’re the societies that attract people from around the world. The same goes for businesses. Those that foster an inclusive culture that respects and celebrates differences — ethnic, cultural, gender, sexual orientation, abilities and many more — can attract and retain the best talent. And that’s the real reason for inclusive leadership — it’s not just the right thing to do, it enriches an organization’s ability to innovate, drive growth and leave a better working world for future generations.

So as we talk at Davos this week about responsive and responsible leadership, I encourage leaders around the world to make a conscious effort to lead by example and adopt an inclusive approach to leadership. It may take time to see the results, but believe me, it’s worth the endeavour.