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The Solution to Gender Equality in the C-Suite? Measuring Successes and Failures

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Kathleen Taylor believes that human capital is the most important input to virtually every business. So the chair of the board of the Royal Bank of Canada wonders: Why then do most companies not measure progress when it comes to gender equality in the workplace?

“For that not to be measured and managed in the way we do customer retention, for example, seems odd when you put it that way,” said Taylor, speaking at the Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit in Montreal on Monday.

As Maryam Monsef, Canada’s minister of status of women, put it: “What is not measured does not get done.”

Taylor noted that the sectors of the economy that have been required to set targets have made the greatest strides in advancing women than those who have not.

Taylor and Monsef were in conversation about what keeps women out of the upper echelons of business. Taylor, who was the first woman to lead the board of a major Canadian bank said that that a myriad of factors—personal, social, economic, political, and structural—are at play, which is “part of the reason it makes it so difficult to fix.”

Taylor right now is focused on structural hurdles for women, such as early morning meetings or the need for face time, which might require that women stay late into the night—all while they are still often the parent providing the majority of care to children. Taylor says executives need to ponder what it is about their workplaces “that’s causing young women to say I’m going to do something different.” If we don’t keep young women in middle management, we “haven’t got a shot at a larger percentage in the c-suite,” she explains.

For her part, Taylor said the most important training she received in leadership roles in her life was being a mother. “Nothing is more difficult than negotiating with your children,” she said. “It gave me all kinds of new skills around influence and priority setting and organization.”