HHB’s pleasant Board anomaly

March 4, 2022

Halifax Harbour Bridges Board Chair, Vicki Harnish, and Vice Chair Janet MacMillan, pose for a photo.

At a time when women are still under-represented on boards and commissions across Canada, Halifax Harbour Bridges (HHB) stands out.

Not only are four of the nine board members women, but the key roles are held by women.

“Nationally, women make up less than 28 per cent of boards and at HHB we are sitting at 44 per cent,” says HHB GM & CEO Steve Snider. “Only seven per cent of boards nationally have female chairs and we have a female chair and a female vice chair.”

“It’s a nice thing to celebrate on International Women’s Day.”

Representation of women in boardrooms has increased at a snail’s pace in recent years with Deloitte’s recent Women in the Boardroom report suggesting at the current pace, near-parity in representation won’t be achieved until 2045.

Studies have repeatedly shown that increasing diversity is not only the right thing to do for an organization’s culture, it also leads to better outcomes. Increased diversity leads to smarter decision-making, contributes to an organization’s bottom line, and powers innovation, among other benefits.

Board chair Vicki Harnish said she has worked collaboratively with women in senior positions for many years, so it’s not a new experience, but when she started working in government in the 1970s, she remembers encountering sexism in the workplace.

“I was asked, when starting my first job as a young professional, if I didn’t feel guilty about taking a job from a man. And this from the human resources director. Thankfully, the public sector progressed over the following 25 years.”

By the time she joined the ranks of the deputy minister cadre, she said half of her colleagues were women and the top two bureaucrats in the Department of Finance, responsible for the finances of Nova Scotia, were women.

Vice-chair Janet MacMillan said she surrounds herself with creative, strong, kind and smart women, “so every day is International Women’s Day.”

“I have had the opportunity and privilege to co-own and build a business, with two amazing female partners,” she said. “I’ve learned so much and been inspired by so many.”