Women And Trust In The Workplace

|, , May 3, 2018

We’ve seen from three years of our CanTrust Index data that Canadians are a trusting bunch. Each year, we use our study as an opportunity to look deeper into important issues affecting Canadians. This year, one of those areas we explored was trust based on gender.

We asked Canadians how much they trust in male- versus female-led organizations and found that trust is higher for an organization led by a woman (at 14%) versus a man (at 4%). Those who express higher trust in a female-led organization included female respondents (17%) and those ages 18 to 24 (25%).  Also encouraging is that eight in 10 Canadians indicate they trust male and female leaders equally.

As a professional who works in a corporate environment where females are supported, promoted and in leadership roles, I look at these numbers with optimism. From our data, young Canadians – female and male – are the highest ‘trusters’ of female-led organizations; this bodes well for our future.  These results could be interpreted as young Canadians being raised to value women and gender equality. It could also indicate that young Canadians with part-time jobs or those entering the workforce have had positive experiences with female leaders or role models.

Marketing communications is one industry where women succeed and hold leadership roles – although there continues to remain room for improvement.  At Proof Inc., about two-thirds of our leadership team is comprised of women – with many balancing heavy workloads and young families.  Proof Inc. has also been ranked as a top workplace for women by The Great Places to Work Institute published by the Globe and Mail.

Evidence shows that female leaders typically show greater compassion and empathy, and have more open and collaborative negotiation and problem-solving styles.  While this is not necessarily true of all women – there are many different leadership styles – these traits are hallmarks of great leadership. And while these characteristics are not exclusively held by women, they are qualities that should be developed and rewarded to foster greater team collaboration and trust in the workplace.

As for my advice for female professionals looking to build trust and advance their careers, here are three lessons that have served me well along the way.

  • Kick your inner-critic to the curb. Hands down, self-doubt can be a huge inner-roadblock for women looking to grow their careers (check out Playing Big by Tara Mohr). To inspire confidence and build trust among peers and managers, we need to trust ourselves first.   We often spend too much time second-guessing decisions or actions.  Over the years I’ve learned how to turn down the volume of my inner-critic.  While a certain amount of thought and consultation is healthy, my advice is to learn how to trust your gut and then own your decision for better or worse, with confidence.  It gets easier to do over time.
  • Be bold. Be heard. Whether it’s speaking up in a meeting, asking a good question, sharing a thoughtful idea or negotiating a promotion — once you succeed in being heard, this positive reinforcement creates momentum. What helped me develop in this area is making sure I did my homework by preparing for meetings and picking my moments to offer insight or perspective.  I also learned to embrace the feeling of being uncomfortable – our mantra at Proof.  Small wins are important in building confidence and will encourage you to be gutsier going forward.
  • Practice resiliency. This applies whether you hit a roadblock, suffer a setback or make a mistake. Setbacks and mistakes are bound to happen.  Accept the situation, take the time you need to recover (it could take a few days), evaluate what you’ve learned by writing it out, but then dust yourself off and get back at it.  Learning from these life experiences and focusing on the positive can make us stronger people and better at our jobs.  The good news is resiliency can be practiced and learned.

While these tips are equally applicable for males and females in the workplace, young women looking to begin their careers should do their research and identify companies where women are well-represented and in leadership positions.  Seek inspiration – or better yet, mentorship – from leaders who have the qualities you respect, value and trust, to guide your development.  Most importantly we need to work together to support each other and the next generation of females to reach their potential as trusted and recognized leaders in the workplace.


  1. Jennifer

    As a woman I admire AND trust, these are good insights and smart pieces of advice for any young woman (or man) building their career. They are learning from one of the best.

  2. Greg

    some great advice here Vanessa, well done.

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