A path to gender equality

‘CEO Takeover’ initiative supports female leadership aspirations

To mark International Women’s Day and the upcoming International Day of the Girl (October 11, 2020), Richardson Wealth is thrilled to announce our plan to participate in a unique annual initiative known as CEO Takeover, which forms part of the #GirlsBelongHere campaign.

Organized by Plan International Canada, a member of a global organization dedicated to advancing children’s rights and equality for girls, CEO Takeover is designed to help propel females into leadership positions across Canada.

Richardson Wealth President and Chief Executive Andrew Marsh has agreed to ‘step down’ for one day in the fourth quarter to allow a young woman to symbolically step into the leadership role. Selected by Plan International Canada, the young female candidate will join Richardson Wealth for the day, occupying the C-Suite, overseeing a senior executive meeting among other tasks, and experiencing what it’s like to be at the helm of a leading independent wealth management firm.

Richardson Wealth embraces and supports meaningful initiatives like CEO Takeover / #GirlsBelongHere that highlight and ultimately help to eliminate barriers beyond more obvious external or institutional ones. That is, we recognize the need to address more subtle unseen barriers – internal constraints like self doubt, self-criticism and lowered expectations that prevent many girls and women from more effectively charting a course to leadership.

“At its core, this initiative is intended to highlight that people become leaders by internalizing a leadership identity and developing a sense of purpose,” Mr. Marsh says. “This self-belief is a necessary first step! By participating in this initiative, we are encouraging young women not only to imagine what they’re capable of but to actually make it materialize.”

Catherine Chalmers, VP, Philanthropy at Plan International Canada, says that by participating in the Girls Belong Here program, “corporations are joining voices in a bold statement about gender equality in the workplace and taking a stand in support of young women and girls everywhere”.

“We are thrilled to have Richardson Wealth joining us this year. As an innovative and forward-thinking organization deeply interested in developing a culture of social good, [the firm’s] involvement further cements a commitment to important social issues like gender equality and highlights Richardson Wealth’s desire to mobilize employees and advocate among clients, coast to coast, to take a stand.”

In Canada, only 15% of CEO positions are held by women. Moreover, women comprise 19.5% of the board members for Canada’s top 500 companies. And only 8.5% of the highest-paid positions in Canada’s top 100 listed companies are held by women, according to Plan International Canada.

Importantly though, as Harvard Business Review aptly points out, “Becoming a leader involves much more than being put in a leadership role, acquiring new skills, and adapting one’s style to the requirements of that role. It involves a fundamental identity shift.” As an organization, we are committed to not only advising and supporting women as they seek out leadership roles, but also continuing to address policies and practices that “communicate a mismatch between how women are seen, and the qualities and experiences people tend to associate with leaders.”

First lady of Canadian business: Muriel Sprague Richardson

The Richardson name is often associated with firsts – and so it is with Muriel Sprague Richardson. In 1939 she became the first woman to lead a large corporation in Canada, becoming the fifth President of James Richardson & Sons Limited (JRSL). During the 27 years of her leadership, she expanded the company’s grain and financial interests and added real estate and pipeline construction, among other enterprises.

Mrs. Richardson was also among the first business leaders in Canada to introduce an employee pension plan, group life insurance and other benefits. Her exceptionalism, however, remained largely unknown outside of the business and community in which she lived.

‘A lady broker with an abiding passion for anonymity’

Described as private, exceedingly unpretentious, calm and matter of fact, she was propelled into the leadership position following the sudden death of her husband James Richardson (53). Newly widowed, Mrs. Richardson reportedly found it difficult to muster up the energy and passion to take up the reins. But, according to a Maclean’s journalist writing in 1957, she was prompted into action after hearing about a grain trader forecasting JRSL’s imminent demise.

“When I heard about that, I knew what I had to do,” Mrs. Richardson reportedly declared.

The Maclean’s article goes on to describe Mrs. Richardson’s approach: “She plunged into work, sometimes six days a week. She knew few details and little of the terminology of the grain or investment businesses. She reminded employees that she was only “the bridge between my husband and my sons.” “But we soon realized she had an extraordinary knowledge of the business and the men in it,” says an associate. “I know of no woman who could have taken hold as she did.”

As the women and men of Richardson Wealth, we’re certainly glad Muriel took charge in the extraordinary way that she did.

Muriel Richardson