Pamela Jeffery, founder of the Prosperity Project. (screenshot)
Pamela Jeffery, the driving force behind the Prosperity Project, led an Oct. 7 webinar entitled When Women Succeed, We all Prosper – Don’t Let COVID-19 Hold Us Back, which was part of a National Council of Jewish Women of Canada series on women and justice.
Launched on May 21 of this year, the Prosperity Project hopes to ensure that gains made by women in the workplace and elsewhere are not set back permanently by the pandemic. In July, a Royal Bank of Canada report showed that women’s participation in the labour force had decreased to its lowest level in 30 years. Women, according to RBC, have been disproportionately affected by the overall decline in work hours since March, and this has been exacerbated by the household and childcare responsibilities for which women take on a greater share than men, particularly when children are not learning in school.
“We all know that the women’s movement is unfinished,” said Jeffery. “This is why our leadership is necessary – no matter what our age or our gender. It is up to all of us to ensure that men and women have equal opportunity, which is at the heart of the Prosperity Project.”
She stressed, “There is a clear focus on making sure that the progress made over the last 60 years on gender equality is not rolled back. That is why the Prosperity Project exists.”
Jeffery spoke of three essential themes to advancing the movement: resourcefulness, relationships and risk. “Each of us has the power to bring an idea forward. We can take a calculated risk and draw on our resourcefulness and relationships to make things happen,” she said.
The Prosperity Project has several initiatives it hopes will safeguard the progress by women in the past few decades and propel it further. Among them is a “matching initiative” for nonprofit organizations whose mission is geared towards helping women with training, employment pathways, crisis counseling and mental and physical health. The initiative introduces women and men in the private sector with specific skill sets to the staff and existing boards of these nonprofits for extended volunteer assignments.
Jeffery pointed out the importance of role models and mentors for women. “A good mentor pushes someone outside of their comfort zone. Women are less likely to have mentors than men, which can explain our different career trajectories,” she said.
The Prosperity Project also plans to research and share practical solutions that will provide insights to employers and policy-makers on how to improve gender equality. Furthermore, it will enable women to learn from one another, to increase their employment income and well-being.
Jeffery cited a 2017 study by McKinsey & Co., reporting the overall societal benefits of advancing women’s equality. By addressing this issue, McKinsey found that Canada could “add $150 billion in incremental GDP in 2026 or see a 0.6% increase of annual GDP growth.”
The Prosperity Project also plans to create a modern-day Rosie the Riveter campaign, inspired by the iconic image used in advertising materials to encourage women to do factory work during the Second World War. The modern-day objective is to increase the labour force participation rate of women and, at the same time, encourage partners to share household responsibilities equally and motivate employers to bolster advancement opportunities and achieve gender parity at all levels of an enterprise.
The Prosperity Project has thus far brought on board 62 diverse female leaders from across the country, such as Enterprise Canada chief executive officer Barbara Fox, Sleep Country co-founder Christine Magee and former B.C. premier Christy Clark.
Jeffery’s own biography is one of enterprise, determination and success. An MBA graduate from Western University, in Ontario, she is the founder of the Women’s Executive Network and Canadian Board Diversity Council. She has served on the board of numerous organizations and has been a frequent contributor to the Globe and Mail and National Post.
“I am optimistic about the situation we find ourselves in, in 2020. I remind myself of how far we have come,” she said. “Back in 2003, six percent of FP500 board seats were held by women. Now, it is over 25%. I am confident we are going to be able to work together to make sure that COVID-19 does not bring us back.”
The webinar was serendipitously scheduled for an hour before the American vice-presidential debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence.
“We are doing quite a lot, but there is so much more to be done,” Jeffery concluded.
For more information, visit canadianprosperityproject.ca.
Sam Margolis has written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.