At Tolko, we know that our people are our difference. Over the past few years, we have made a strong public commitment to diversity, including our commitment to women and women in leadership roles.

This may sound like a noble goal. The truth is, it’s not. It’s simply good business. Creating a diverse workforce is in our best interests as we face the future. An engaged and dynamic workforce that includes more women will help us reach and exceed our goals as a company, draw the best and brightest to our workforce to meet the demographic challenge, and foster innovative ideas to move the industry forward.

The statistics stack up in support of adding more women to leadership levels, as well. Catalyst Research shows that companies with a higher percentage of women in executive positions have a 34% higher total return to shareholders than those with fewer women in leadership roles. Another study conducted by Catalyst found that companies with the most women directors outperform those with the least on return on invested capital by 26%.

In study after study, the numbers support the increasing presence of women in our industry as leading business practice.

As we honoured Canada’s first Gender Equality Week in September, many of us naturally paused to reflect on how far we’ve come. It was only 90 years ago that women were declared “persons” under Canadian law. Since that time, we have taken many steps to treating women equitably at work, but it took another 86 years after that historic declaration for Canada to have its first gender-balanced cabinet.

Progress hasn’t been as quick as many of us would like. With so much statistical evidence to support this change, what has stood in our way?

As Shelley Zalis, CEO of the Female Quotient, has said, “Equity will happen only when we make a conscious decision to make it happen. It’s not a female issue. It’s not a male issue. It’s a leadership issue.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Leaders set the stage for change and growth. By their example and sponsorship, they can send a powerful message of support for diversity and inclusion.

When leaders make diversity and inclusion a priority, we will make progress toward creating an atmosphere in which all people feel valued, respected and have the same opportunities.

As a leader, my goal is to have a strategy for women that helps them build their confidence and encourages them to manage their careers proactively. With confidence, we find our voices, and with our voices, we will build our future.

I invite you to join our conversation about women in forestry. Follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter .