These imbalances often represent the driving force behind the anxiety articulated by our young people. But what they fundamentally want is hope in the future and confidence that greater opportunities are ahead of them. I strongly believe that business leaders at all levels can inspire and instil that deeper sense of hope in and for young people. But they need evidence that their values are shared.
The question of how the business community can support under-employed and vulnerable populations is fundamental. We need to look for solutions throughout society, including ensuring equal opportunities for women and those affected by disabilities, and timely and targeted training for in-demand skills for those recently laid off. Making meaningful changes to employment and training policies will result in more people working, and working more productively.
Consider that in Canada alone, the province of Québec has the country’s highest female participation rate in the workforce among those of working age, thanks to public policy promoting more equal access for women to employment opportunities. If the rest of Canada saw female participation levels rise to those seen in Québec, roughly 300,000 women would be added to the Canadian labour force overnight. We must look to solutions such as this, that lead to more people working more productively and sharing opportunity more equitably.
Finding solutions means working with other community stakeholders – in business and other sectors alike – to develop a future that is more inclusive, fair and equal for everyone. If we don’t, we limit the long-term growth potential and the sustainability of the economy.
Creating opportunities to bring business leaders together represents an important way forward. In Toronto, a city with its own challenges with economic inequality, I chair a Local Economic Opportunity Leadership Roundtable. Private sector leaders have joined the Roundtable to help identify the levers available to them to create change, and formulate and steer new solutions to address issues facing our communities, such as growing income disparity and the need for inclusive local economic opportunity. Our goal is to drive meaningful change and stimulate local economic growth, with scalable initiatives. This is a model that can easily be replicated in cities around the world.
Business leaders need to take up these two challenges: standing up to share the virtues of business and modern commerce, and working together within our communities to address vital issues of economic inequality. If, collectively as leaders, we can do that, we’ll have done our part to create a stronger, healthier, more resilient and ultimately more prosperous society.