Leadership au féminin: Insight from Anne-Marie Croteau (PhD)
Par: Corey Hoare
Today is International Women’s Day. The theme this year is: “Better the balance, better the world” (#BalanceforBetter; https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Theme). When looking at this theme, one influential Montrealer has been leading the way for over two decades, and on June 1 st , 2017 made history by becoming the first female dean of the Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business (JMSB). For Anne-Marie Croteau (PhD), the ascent to the highest office at JMSB began in 1997 when she became a faculty member and subsequently, full professor in the Department of Supply Chain and Business Technology Management. Along the way Dean Croteau has held a variety of leadership positions, such as: Director of the John Molson Executive MBA Program and the Global Aviation MBA Program as well as position of Associate Dean of Professional Graduate Programs and External Relations at JMSB (to name a few). Presently, Dean Croteau also serves on the Board of Directors for the SAAQ and Hydro-Québec.
Even with extensive experience, prior to putting her name in the pool of applicants, Dean Croteau pondered the questions that we would all ask ourselves: “Is that for me? Is it the right time? Do I have the capacity for leadership?” To which she answered yes and ultimately was chosen by committee to receive the position. By doing so, she contributed to the growing number of female deans in business schools across the world, though in AACSB accredited schools, women hold roughly one fifth of the total number of dean positions (https://aacsbblogs.typepad.com/dataandresearch/gender/).
Often, those who are in a leadership role act as the catalyst for change. For Dean Croteau, “being a leader is a privilege and I think it’s also embracing the privilege of being a leader … you can influence people in a very positive way which is wonderful. It’s wonderful. It’s a gift when you have that.” Positive influence extends to a variety of domains, case in point is the ever-present issue of diversity and equity in leadership on Board of Directors. Dean Croteau acknowledges that she has benefited from la Loi sur la gouvernance des sociétés d’État that came into force in 2006. With this law, crown corporations in Québec were required to have more women on and had to attain gender parity on their board of directors. This, according to Dean Croteau allowed her to “become part of this network, you [then] open the network to other women, to other people … it makes the network of potential directors larger.”
Ultimately, creating a larger and more diverse pool of candidates allows for incremental changes and erodes barriers that may have held back individuals in the past. Leading by example also has significant impacts in another important and formative aspect of life: education. Diversity in education encompasses many aspects, whether gender, culture, religion, orientation or background; Dean Croteau openly embraces diversity and supports that it is part of the DNA of JMSB and Concordia University. “We need diversity, and diversity goes both ways” says Dean Croteau when referring to gender imbalances in certain undergraduate programs and the work being done to balance them, adding that “it’s about offering people them the chance to achieve their greatest potential.”
Being a leader is a privilege and I think it’s also embracing the privilege of being a leader … you can influence people in a very positive way which is wonderful. It’s wonderful. It’s a gift when you have that.
Achieving one’s potential and embracing diversity extends beyond the classroom and must also be modeled in professional contexts. As such, the strong and supportive leadership team closest to Dean Croteau is at gender parity. In fact, gender parity resonates with the students in general, wherein many of whom congratulated Dean Croteau with the statement: “you are our first female dean, this is great, we are so happy to finally have one, we’re proud of it.” By seeing diversity and equity in leadership in action, students and community members also feel more comfortable confronting inequality, whether in their coursework or in the workplace. For example, both business cases prepared outside of the university and in job interviews, individuals faced bias in the scenarios they were asked to evaluate. Dean Croteau notes that often the female employee in the fictive scenario is the one “making trouble”.
Biases vary in their degree of prevalence and how widespread they are in our society compared to others. Currently, students face a bias when it comes to evaluating scenarios pertaining to female employees, where they are often cast as the ‘troublemaker.’ “We want to name it, it’s part of our conversation” says Dean Croteau, continuing with “we’re working on it”. Understandably, the school can only modify and revise cases they receive, the bias in the workplace will remain until the issues are addressed. To which Dean Croteau responds “It’s my call to the business community to pay attention to this as well in the interview and give examples of scenarios.”
This being an easy task as most of the time the scenarios are fictive and require little effort to modify to reduce the unconscious bias it may create. Through strong leadership, a supportive team and determination, incremental changes inspire a cascade of further transformations and benefits. As a leader, a catalyst for change and positive female role model, Dean Croteau emphasizes this by knowing what her priorities are. Admitting that “I know I cannot do everything, it’s clear to me, I don’t pretend to and I don’t want to … by having strong people to whom we say ‘this is your portfolio, you’re in charge. Go with it’ … everybody plays a strong role and I think if we have a clear vision of who we want to be out there, we align ourselves with this.” Specifying that “a leader without a purpose is lost, it’s a missed chance.” Even if along the way, the path to a goal may not have been the one you envisioned, Dean Croteau advises “It’s not where you go but how you reach that place. Embrace your journey.”
It’s my call to the business community to pay attention to this as well in the interview and give examples of scenarios.