Canadian Electrical Wholesaler

July 22, 2020

Michelle Branigan 2019 400By Blake Marchand

In light of EHRC’s recent report, Leadershift: Pathways to Gender Equity, we asked CEO Michelle Branigan to provide some insight into their findings and discuss how the industry can progress productively towards equity in our industry.

Equity is certainly a complicated issue and requires a multi-faceted approach. Michelle explained their research shows a disparity between how women and men view gender equity and the opportunity for career advancement among women. A key here is not only communication and discussion, particularly when it comes to sensitive topics, but for leaders to take a multi-faceted approach in improving corporate culture and measuring progress in this area empirically by building equity into decision making metrics. These ideas need to be embedded into corporate culture, which also means employees need to understand why diversity is important and how it can benefit the company. And that falls on leadership.

In speaking with Michelle, it quickly becomes apparent she is an insightful and enlightened individual, who is passionate about the causes EHRC champions. We started our discussion by asking…

What initiated your Leadershift report?

“Our mission is to support the work force needs of the sector, and that means a work force that is highly skilled, productive, and diverse. And it’s that last word that is still challenging for the industry overall.”

Their labour market intelligence shows that women represent 26% overall, and as low as 7% in the trades. “And that’s despite a lot of discussion and handwringing. We’re not moving in the right direction fast enough.”

However, EHRC saw that there was a missing piece, and that was the lack of information in regard to women at the most senior corporate leadership roles.

 “We wanted to gain an understanding of the numbers—and understand the challenges facing women’s advancement into leadership roles, because that’s where a lot of the change needs to take place.”

“The industry itself is in a pretty unprecedented time of change, even outside of COVID-19. Organizations are facing a shift in business models, innovation, performance, and technology advancement. That’s all going to have an impact on jobs, and we know we’re going to see a lot of the current leadership retire in the next few years. If you look at that context, this is a prime opportunity to accelerate the advancement of women into leadership ranks.”

Tell us about some of your findings…

“Unfortunately, the research confirms what is well known in the industry: that the leadership ranks do not reflect the number of talented women that are actually available in the labour force. That is despite the fact that a more gender-inclusive team and board of directors can produce better results,” something that has been well-documented across all industries.

“There’s lots of benefits there and we know that: improved retention, lower strategic risk, stronger access to talent, critical skills; you’re opening up your door to a lot more people to come in.”

Women are not represented proportionately at the board and C-suite (CEO, COO) levels of the industry, and that is impacting the rate of change.

“We researched 61 industry organizations: 88% of those boards had at least one woman on the board, which means 12% don’t have one woman—not one woman on the board! I just find that fascinating, and so disappointing. 77% of the boards had two or more women, that means 23% have between 0-1 woman. A lot of research has shown that having just having one woman alone on a board really won’t make a difference. It’s insufficient, and we’re not going to see the benefits of diversity from that.”

“Almost half the companies we researched in the sector had no women listed in the c-suite positions--that’s a lot. And of the senior executives that are women, half of them—I see this all the time—were in corporate functions: human resources, IT, marketing, legal roles. You have to put that into a broader perspective,” explained Michelle. “Often the road to the CEO or COO role, the most senior positions, is through a career in operational roles and technical roles. STEM fields. If we are not seeing more women seed through into those feeder positions, those STEM positions, then the roles for leadership are going to continue to go to men… It’s not going to change.”

Michelle noted she doesn’t believe the excuse that there are no women in those fields. “There are lots of women coming through in those fields, not enough of course, but to say there’s no women that should be looked at from a succession planning perspective and high potential performers in STEM? That’s a real concern if that’s the way companies are looking at things.”

Is there any optimism stemming from the report?

“I do think there’s been progress,” she said, pointing to the recent appointment of Sophie Brochu, President and CEO of Hydro-Quebec, as well as Jay Grewal who took on Manitoba Hydro’s President and CEO position in 2019. They are the first female CEOs in the history of both organizations. Michelle also mentioned Susan Uthayakumar, who is doing “phenomenal” work as Schneider Electric Canada’s President. “I don’t want to give the impression no progress has been made,” she said, because there are women who are doing great work in and for the industry.

“We need to accelerate that progress.”

What can be done to address the gaps you have identified?

“We need to move from commitment to action, and action starts with leadership, at the end of the day.”

A key point to the report is that leadership impacts change, in order to fundamentally impact the inequalities in our industry, leadership roles need to reflect the diversity in our broader society.

“There’s loads of good policies and practices. Those are really necessary, but in and of themselves they’re not sufficient. They’re not going to have a long-term impact if you don’t have a workplace culture that fully embraces equity. And that means it can’t be a discussion at the surface level; you really need to dig deeper into these conversations, and that conversation is led by leadership.”

Emphasizing that point, she said, “51% of our survey respondents reported that ‘all talk, no action’ is a barrier to making progress towards greater gender balance in their organization.”

“One of our male champions that we interviewed in the report, he said it best, ‘every organization needs champions to take it from just an interesting topic to making it part of an organizational culture through policy, procedures and behaviours.’”

“I just loved that. I’d really like leaders to fully commit to driving change in the organization. And not just to encourage their senior leaders and their managers to be champions of diversity, but to insist on it.”

Here Michelle provides some great insight on how to take that next step:

“There’s different ways in doing that. Include DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) in the leadership competencies that you use for your performance assessments for promotions decisions. Make others in the organization accountable for what they do. I think we need to, as an industry, address some of these issues head on, and maybe stop being so polite about some of them.”

“The research found that there’s a concern staffing decisions may no longer be based on merit—and I see this in the field at conferences when I talk to the folks about this—that a woman will get that promotion because she is a woman.”

For Michelle, leaders have to take responsibility in this to instill a culture that senior positions will go to the most talented, qualified candidate regardless of their background.

A key here is recognizing that bias is unavoidable. The impacts are deeply rooted and aren’t always accessible on the surface level. We have to be aware of this in order to address those biases meaningfully, as individuals and as organizations. Which also means not being afraid of our shortcomings. “Companies are all at different starting points and they will progress at different rates, and that’s okay. The key is just progress, to move forward. To see some change.”

Michelle provides further insight on that point. “Another thing we need to do as an industry – and another thing people are afraid of—is measure what progress looks like. We need to not be afraid of what the numbers reveal when you do an analysis of how you stand in regard to this.”

Leaders in the electrical industry have to establish policy and programs for gender diversity in their organization, as well as measure progress and build gender diversity considerations into the performance review process.

“There is no one size fits all solution. We’re going to have come at this from a number of different angles. It requires a very comprehensive approach.”

“Any kind of policy, programs, practices put in place… the company has to be aware of why they’re being put in place. There needs to be a shared understanding to commitment, to action, and again--we need to talk about it because there is a divide in perspective.”

“There’s a big difference in how women see things getting done and how men see things getting done. On the good side of that, we do have some good momentum. Some organizations are doing great, there are pockets of great practices that we’re seeing, great stories.”

Michelle emphasized that a great starting point for industry leaders is to sign on to EHRC’s Leadership Accord for Gender Diversity. They’ve had over 100 industry leaders sign on and take on roles as champions for diversity.

Was there anything in the report that was surprising to you?

Michelle noted that she wasn’t surprised to find that men and women view gender diversity progress differently but was surprised about how far apart those views were. She explained that their research shows a disparity between how women and men view gender equity and the opportunity for career advancement among women.

“We saw that almost 1-in-5 men that we surveyed believe that it’s easier for women to succeed in their workplace than it is for men. Now, when we asked women the same question, 3-in-4 (75%) believe that women have a harder time.”

“That was a surprise, there’s still a big gap. We’re still falling short in understanding the reality of the sector’s gender. Men are much more likely to think gender or ethnic backgrounds doesn’t make a difference in relation to career success.”

“Another thing that surprised me was women in our survey are not at all confident that senior leaders are aware of the barriers within the organization. They still have doubts about the commitment even within their own organization, sometimes.”

“1-in-7 women in our survey feel that leaders within the electricity sector are not at all interested in increasing the number of women in leadership. But when you ask men that same question, almost half of the men feel the leaders are committed. So, for me, men and women are hearing very different messages from their leadership.”

As Michelle explained, the industry is changing, whether it’s the influx of new technologies or changeover in leadership ranks. EHRC’s Leadershift report emphasizes the need to ensure this transition is undertaken thoughtfully, while taking into consideration some of the issues, like diversity and equity, that are holding the industry back from reaching its full potential.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is Associate Editor with Kerrwil Electrical Group

David Gordon New 400Everyone is an expert in pricing. It’s either too high or too low based upon your role. Salespeople like it low. Management wants it high. The customer wants it “right” which, usually means “competitive” or “It’s reasonable for the value I am receiving.”

And the term “value” is intriguing as it infers that you understand
• the value that you bring
• the value that your product / service brings
• the competitive landscape (which also includes alternatives and inertia)

But I digress. 

Read More

 

 

COVID ULConsumer UVC germicidal devices are entering the market rapidly because of an increased demand for sanitizing and germicidal capabilities in the face of COVID-19. But are they all safe?

UVC radiation (the most energetic in the UV spectrum; 180nm to 280 nm) is proven to have sanitizing and germicidal effects, and first proof of effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 is emerging. Like many high energy devices, however, there are risks due to UVC exposure. For example, UVC over-exposure can cause damage to the eyes and skin, based on wavelength, intensity, proximity to the source, and time of exposure.

Read More


 

Investment In Building Construction - July 2020Total investment in building construction increased 1.8% to $15.1 billion in July. Residential sector investment increased 4.9% to $9.9 billion, while non-residential investment decreased 3.7% to $5.3 billion.

Construction activity has rebounded in the last few months, with investment in building construction remaining slightly lower than February 2020 levels, before COVID-19 construction restrictions were first put in place. On a constant dollar basis (2012=100), investment in building construction increased 2.0% to $12.4 billion.

Read More


 

 

Swati Vora-PatelBy Swati Vora-Patel

Personal protective equipment. We understand how important PPE is keeping us safe during this pandemic. While we continue to do our part to protect ourselves and those around us, counterfeit PPE is on the rise and has found its way into the supply chain: fraudulent COVID-19 testing kits, N95 masks, respirators, and even fake vaccines, which all pose a significant threat to the health and safety of unsuspecting global citizens.

Counterfeit activity and intellectual property crimes remain a growing issue in Canada and around the world. 

Read More


 

Changing Scene

  • Prev
E.B. Horsman & Son is excited to announce EMPOWER, their Employee Share Ownership Plan ...
What better way to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Rittal System Ltd. in Canada than to be ...
Electro-Federation Canada (EFC) is pleased to announce the 7th Annual 2020 Marketing Awards Program ...
Leviton announced that Jean Belhumeur, president and chief of operations of Leviton Canada, will ...
Ouellet Canada is proud to announce the acquisition of Britech, a manufacturer and supplier of ...
Recently Tim MacDonald, President of Ideal Supply announced the appointment of Mike Smith to the ...
Liteline Corporation has announced the addition of Martin Parilak to their Canadian Regional Sales ...
The Task Force for a Resilient Recovery recommends five bold actions to help Canada “build ...
Late April 2020 ECM Industries acquired ILSCO. Since that time, they have been integrating the two ...
Since 1993, E.B. Horsman & Son(EBH) has been a proud supporter of BC Children’s Hospital ...
 

 

Martin Parilak  Liteline Corporation has announced the addition of Martin Parilak to their Canadian Regional Sales Team.

"Martin brings over 20 years of well respected electrical industry knowledge and experience to Liteline. Through his time spent in successful and progressive roles, as both a distributor and agent, Martin's experience will greatly compliment Liteline's growing product lines and will be of benefit to our agent network and customers of Western Canada," said National Sales Manager, Steve McMullen.

 

 

Read More


 

New Project 1Ouellet Canada is proud to announce the acquisition of Britech, a manufacturer and supplier of electric radiant heating systems in Canada.

Britech specializes in heating cables (floor, concrete and snow melting), electric thermal storage heating and self-regulating heating cables (roof and gutter de-icing).

"With this acquisition, we are demonstrating our commitment to growing and consolidating our relationship with our current customer base. It also allows us to continue offering quality products, innovative product design and industry-leading brands," said Louis Beaulieu, General Manager with Ouellet Canada.

Read More


 

 

Canadian College Task ForcesThe Task Force for a Resilient Recovery recommends five bold actions to help Canada “build back better” after the COVID-19 pandemic. Colleges can take the lead, to help meet the skills gap, and support communities transition to the low carbon economy.

What are the goals for the coalition? Rapidly implement and scale new curriculum and research initiatives relevant to a resilient recovery. Champion resilient recovery projects in line with the recommendations of the Task Force for a Resilient Recovery...

 

Read More


 

 

 

 

EBH DonationsSince 1993, E.B. Horsman & Son(EBH) has been a proud supporter of BC Children’s Hospital Foundation (BCCHF), helping provide the bestcare for children across British Columbia.

In EBH’s 120th Anniversary year, their employees,suppliers, and customers worked together to doubletheir annual fundraising efforts and donated over $100,000 to BCCHF. This significantly contributed to EBH reaching its cumulative donation of $1 million dollars!

 

 

 

Read More


 

Nathan SalmonNathan Salmon has been appointed General Manager, Rexel Atlantic. Nathan joined Rexel in 2016 and brought along over a decade of related distribution, management and supply chain experience. 


At first, he was responsible for the Dartmouth and Halifax locations where he was able to bring about significant growth and stability. In 2019, Nathan was promoted to a Regional Manager role leading and overseeing the Nova Scotia and Newfoundland branches. 

 

Read More


 

Peers & Profiles

  • Prev
Electrimat is an independent Quebec-owned company that has specialized for 40 years in the ...
In July, Eaton announced that Vice President, Channel – Electrical Sector, Matt Cleary would be ...
Tim King, Southwire Canada’s new President and first Canadian to assume the role, has taken the ...
Bogdan Botoi is Division Manager for Automation and Control with E.B. Horsman out of British ...
Mission Technical Solutions is a recently established sales agency founded by industry veteran ...

CEW 18 PP TimKing 400By Line Goyette

Tim King, Southwire Canada’s new President and first Canadian to assume the role, has taken the helm in the midst of the midst of the COVID-19 health crisis.

Previously, Tim served as Southwire Canada’s Director of Finance, HR and Administration. He has a background in economics and finance from Wilfred Laurier University. As a student, he was convinced that having a solid understanding of finance and economics would be an essential foundation to build his professional future. Over the course of his career, he purposefully acquired a broad range of skills, experience and knowledge to succeed in his new role.

Read More

 


 

Will Green and Matt ClearyIn July, Eaton announced that Vice President, Channel – Electrical Sector, Matt Cleary (pictured on the left) would be retiring after 40 years with the company, and Will Green (pictured on the right) was appointed as his successor. CEW sat down with the colleagues and friends over the phone to discuss their relationship, the transition as well as gain insight into their views on the industry.

Cleary joined the company in 1981 as a sales engineer, working his way through various roles of increasing responsibility. Green, who previously served as Vice President, U.S. Channel Operations and U.S. Sales, North American Sales, has been through a number of customer-facing roles...

Read More


 

 

Copper $US Dollar price per pound

Kerrwil Publications Great Place to Work. Certified December 2019 - December 2020

538 Elizabeth Street, Midland,Ontario, Canada L4R2A3 +1 705 527 7666
©2020 All rights reserved

Use of this Site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy Policy (effective 1.1.2016)
The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Kerrwil