Corporate Social Responsibility First the women

They fill half of these positions in large companies in the United States. WHO? guidelines for sustainable development. How does one explain this rare parity in one of the otherwise essentially masculine financial branches?

Published on March 7th

Isabelle Masse

Isabelle Masse
The press

Looking through a list compiled by the recruitment company Weinreb-Group, it is tempting to say that the cohort of ESG experts – for environmental, social and governance criteria – was equal in 2021, in contrast to CEO positions (8.2 % women according to Fortune) 500) or CFO (13.2% women), for example.

The relatively recent interest in corporate social responsibility could explain women’s significant place. But that’s not all.


Milla Craig, founder of the ESG integration consulting firm Millani

In the beginning, it was often women who were found around the table. Maybe because less tangible topics interest women. They work more often in collaboration, also as a team. And to succeed with social responsibility, it requires this: to convince colleagues to provide information, data.

Milla Craig, founder of the ESG integration consulting firm Millani

“Until two years ago, there was not much money on the table to do it, so it took enthusiasts,” M. Craig.

“The environment is part of the welfare of communities,” adds Pauline D’Amboise, Corporate Secretary and Vice-President, Governance and Sustainable Development, of the Mouvement Desjardins. Women have always been involved in social considerations. In Quebec, I am thinking of the Réseau des femmes environnement or the Mères au front [initié par Laure Waridel et Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette]. They become leaders because it’s a battle they’ve been fighting for years. It became opportunities, then business models. »


Pauline D’Amboise, Corporate Secretary and Vice-President, Governance and Sustainable Development, Desjardins Group

In business, the fact that ESG considerations have often emerged or been taken up by the organizations’ communications and human resources departments may explain women’s expertise in this business sphere. “There are generally more women in these departments,” notes Michèle Meier, senior vice president, communications and global marketing, at SNC-Lavalin. They were pioneers, created programs, laid the foundation. Then it came out of communication to make it more integrated into the business. To me, it’s a leadership position because it casts a very wide net. There is a movement. It is a position related to strategy, innovation, it comes from the top management. »

Generalization of the profession

Because environment and sound management are becoming standards, the role is being taken over more and more by men. “I had the opportunity to follow the development of the function at an international level,” explains Pauline D’Amboise. When we analyze recruitment for 10 years, we see that the function of “Chief Sustainable Officer” is often performed by women. But it is getting more balanced. It is a new industry that is becoming the norm. We talk about it in universities. Even MBAs are popping up in ESG and CSR. It is a movement that has come to stay. »

At Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business, it is the courses on responsible economics that attract women the most.


Amr Addas, director of the finance department at the John Molson School of Business

It is easier to attract them in sustainable investments. They identify more with these problems. But for two or three years, the guys have been more present. They have no choice. ESG is becoming a key investment.

Amr Addas, director of the finance department at the John Molson School of Business

It is also a matter of interest to Generation Z, according to Amr Addas.

At a time when standards are becoming clearer, more and more responsible investments are being demanded and the move towards zero CO2 emissions is becoming official, it is dangerous for organizations to turn a blind eye. Their performance depends on it. “Capital markets are beginning to appreciate this type of information,” explains Milla Craig. So CFO, the board wants such information. Several large companies, financial institutions, pension funds are entering sustainable financing. Women are thus increasingly entering the financial sector, which is moving towards sustainable financing. »

COP26 to the rescue

According to ESG specialist Anne-Marie Hubert, working is inspiring for investors who want to create value. “On November 3, during COP26, we said we would require the publication and creation of a single standard organization,” explains EY’s managing partner for Eastern Canada. Before November 3, there were over 60. You chose what you wanted to disclose. “It was not comparable. An agency will require consistent disclosure.”

Investors are increasingly pushing for equality and inclusion, for sustainable financing, she adds. “Women are interested in making this kind of funding, which has an impact on society and the planet. But everyone can contribute, because we can no longer carry out our work without taking into account the ESG. We are at a crucial time for to attract women and men to do financing differently, to commit us to the common good. You still have to make money, but you can create value and have a positive impact on society. ”

Everyone is feeling an acceleration since last year. Many organizations are now intensely looking to fill positions of social responsibility. According to a Deloitte survey, two thirds of organizations are affected by the lack of qualified ESG staff. “There, we integrate the ESG offering into all of our financial activities with our members and our customers,” notes Pauline D’Amboise.


Anne-Marie Hubert, Managing Partner for Eastern Canada at EY

ESG factors are integrated into virtually every investment decision.

Anne-Marie Hubert, Managing Partner for Eastern Canada at EY

The big door to the financial community thus opens up for women, especially thanks to their knowledge of sustainable financing. “Like they were there before, they have the expertise to take it to the next level. That’s how we want to correct the statistics for 14% of women in the financial sector.”

Leave a Comment