By 2026, women in Canada will control close to half of all accumulated financial wealth, according to the Investor Economics Household Balance Sheet Report (Canada, 2017). This significant increase – compared to a decade earlier when the share was closer to one-third – will in part be fuelled by a significant flow of inheritances to women of all ages in Canada, roughly estimated by Strategic Insight to represent up to $900-billion in financial and real assets over the next decade.
Along with inherited wealth, Canadian women are also projected to enjoy increased earnings, due to a greater overall participation in the workforce, higher levels of professional responsibilities and an increase in female entrepreneurship.
While this rise in financial control by women challenges old conventions, it also brings opportunities to define “a new normal” that could shape family enterprises, organizations and society for better, believes Michelle Osry, who leads Deloitte Canada’s Family Enterprise Consulting practice.
“We are now at a time when different ways of seeing things are called for, and when real gender balance can lend us innovative ways of thinking,” she says.
Beyond personal wealth, research shows that balanced gender representation brings tangible benefits to organizations. A 2017 Deloitte report, titled Outcomes over optics, found that “highly inclusive organizations are more likely to be growing – and growing faster than their peers: 41 per cent of them reported employment growth, compared to 26 per cent of less inclusive firms.”
Ms. Osry is also a member of the board of directors for the Family Enterprise Xchange Foundation and the Family Enterprise Xchange. In her practice working with business families to help them build the alignment and resilience needed to flourish across generations, she increasingly sees the need for families across the spectrum of wealth to create space and capacity for conversations about money, ownership and power, addressing roles and expectations that may exist and likely need to evolve.
Given the importance of family enterprises in the Canadian economy (family enterprises are said to produce 60 per cent of the GDP), Ms. Osry believes it is “imperative that we equip business families for the shift towards gender diversity, which will increasingly need the support of both men and women.”
Ms. Osry recommends that business families actively explore the influence of cultural and societal biases – some conscious, some unconscious – on their family norms. “Embracing fiscal equality and gender diversity requires courage. Families and the organizations they control must choose to fundamentally change their culture.”
From planned yet open conversations can come new models of decision-making and governance structures, says Ms. Osry. She suggests that this also presents an opportunity to embrace a broader definition of wealth – one that acknowledges the importance of a family’s human, social, intellectual and spiritual capitals.
“A broader accounting of this capital can help to transform not only our nation’s enterprising families but our organizations too. Research shows that women tend to lead with empathy and compassion,” she says. “While there are many pitfalls and challenges to navigate the prevailing trends towards the regendering of wealth, it offers us the opportunity to take the best of our old models while adapting and evolving our focus towards leadership and legacy that is more holistic and balanced, for the better of the organizations and the economy.”
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