Bob Elton talks about what men can do to be part of the gender equality discussion
Fighting for gender equality involves a lot of hard work – work that needs to be shared by both men and women. Bob Elton, former President and CEO of BC Hydro and former Board Director at Minerva BC, has been involved in that work for a long time. And as a person of influence, he believes strongly that others like him need to take action to bring about change.
“If people are in a position where they can influence things, they should,” explained Elton. “So whether you’re hiring, promoting or picking a team for a project, it’s worth making sure the composition of the team is more balanced than it might otherwise be if you just picked your friends.”
As President and CEO of BC Hydro, Bob oversaw a leadership group that achieved gender balance, a conscious effort that stemmed from a desire to have a well-rounded leadership group, with different leaders bringing a variety of leadership styles. He acknowledges that in some sectors there remains antiquated notions of what a leader looks like and how they need to behave.
Chipping away at those notions will take time, and that kind of change only comes gradually. But those in leadership roles have a real opportunity to bring old conceptions of a leader into the 21st century and beyond. And more than that, everyone can play a role in achieving balance.
“We’re all responsible for the culture of the organization or the family or the community or the team,” added Elton. “So the question is: What do we do? What do I do? To make sure everybody listens to everybody around the table.”
Understanding the value of listening is a leadership skill that Bob credits to his time on the board at Minerva. He’s says that men can better understand that they don’t have to do all the talking. In fact, letting others share their opinions and experiences, led to a second leadership lesson Bob took from his time at Minerva.
“There was a lot of focus on storytelling as a way of learning about yourself, learning about others,” recalled Elton. “It’s not something I grew up doing as a leader. [But] I’ve learned, in a very introverted way, to share stories.”
It’s been nearly 10 years since Bob became one of the first men to join the Board at Minerva. Since then, more men and allies have joined the gender equality discussion. And though progress is slow, with more leaders like Bob helping to advance the cause, and bringing more men into the discussion, progress will continue move faster and in the right direction.