The Gender Equality Forum 2017

Take action along with fellow leaders from business, civil society, government and the United Nations to scale up gender equality and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals — particularly SDG5, focused on the empowerment of women and girls.

Forum Co-Organizers


The Gender Equality Forum has ended. To learn more please read below for event summary and view the photo gallery.

At the Gender Equality Forum 2017 participants got the opportunity to:

  • Help set an action agenda to scale up efforts to advance gender equality, the Women’s Empowerment Principles, and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG5 which is focused on the empowerment of women and girls.
  • Network with leaders in business, government, and UN agencies, and explore opportunities for partnership and collective action.
  • Learn how companies around the world are implementing the WEPs and taking concrete action to advance gender equality in the workplace, marketplace, and community.
  • Find solutions and share innovative approaches, practical tools and resources that can help companies achieve gender equality goals.
  • Engage in peer-to-peer learning to identify and address key challenges and seize opportunities.
  • Be inspired by fellow business leaders from Canada and across the globe – including women entrepreneurs and youth – who are challenging stereotypes and breaking down barriers to gender equality.


You can download the following breakout session presentation slides from the Gender Equality Forum 2017.

  • Breakout Session #1: Cracking the Ceiling, Raising the Floor: Women in Leadership
  • Breakout Session #2: Making Businesses Work for Women – Panel by IDRC
  • Breakout Session #4: Demystifying Gender Quotas

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Confirmed Speakers

Event Summary

Industry professionals, executive leaders, civil society representatives, and government officials including, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario – Her Honour the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, the Federal Minister of the Status of Women – Honourable Minister Maryam Monsef, the Premier of Ontario – Honourable Kathleen Wynne, the Ambassador to the EU from Canada – Marie-Anne Coninsx, The Honourable Senator Murray Sinclair, and the Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations – Marc-André Blanchard, all gathered in Toronto earlier this week to put the spotlight on Sustainable Development Goal #5 “Gender Equality”. The high-level event explored the barriers to women’s economic empowerment and was organized by the Global Compact Network Canada, in collaboration with UN Global Compact and UN Women.

Frank Vettese, the Managing Partner of Deloitte Canada, delivered an opening keynote highlighting the need for innovation in business structures to further diversify human capital at all levels. Gender diversity at the senior management level was a significant theme at the event with everything from gender quotas to mandatory disclosure being presented and debated by an array of speakers and panelists.

One important highlight of the event was the screening of the award-winning documentary “Equal Means Equal”. Kamala Lopez, the movie’s director, delivers an impactful message in her relentless call for the fair treatment of women around the world. The documentary explored gender-based discrimination on all fronts, ranging from socioeconomic disparities to the physical brutalities women are subject to domestically and internationally.

The biggest and most inspiring voices, however, were arguably from youth and the youngest people in the room. Lauren Voisin, Sophia Fairweather, eleven and eight years of age respectively, as well as Casar Jacobson former Miss Canada, have accomplished more on the issues of gender inequality than many of their older peers. All highlighted some of the common challenges that women face regardless of age and the importance of introducing girls to the STEM careers and education from a young age. “If I want to play hockey, I can find a rink, get a coach, and have Hayley Wickenheiser to look up to. STEM doesn’t have that…” says Sophia Fairweather during her panel discussion at the Forum.

By virtue of the organizers’ collaboration with UN agencies, there was also an important UN delegation with keynotes delivered digitally by the Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, as well as other senior leadership at UN Women and UN Global Compact.

The Gender Equality Forum 2017 also saw the inaugural Canadian Gender Equality Awards, which distinguished seven firms for their work towards achieving the seven Women’s Empowerment Principles. Take a look at the winners and their entries >>

On the second day of the Forum, attendees got to attend 1 out of 6 breakout sessions where they had the opportunity to learn about topics ranging from demystifying gender quotas to women in senior leadership. The sessions were led by senior leaders and experts from a diverse collection of industries which allowed the attendees to see the issues at hand from different lenses and perspectives including legal, business intelligence, finance, NGOs, and entrepreneurship. For more information, please see session descriptions in the agenda below.

To extend the discussion beyond the Forum, the President of the Global Compact Network Canada, Helle Bank Jorgensen, called on the attendees to send letters to 1) their future selves 2) a mentor 3) a mentee of a different gender. The GCNC hopes that the #GenderEqualityLetters initiative can help shape a more gender neutral business community and strike down gender biased economic barriers.

The event marked an important step for the business community to tackle gender-based discrimination. Important presences from corporate and government leaders at the Gender Equality Forum 2017 spoke to our desire to create a world where equality of opportunity for women is a reality. It is evident that we have fought extremely hard to arrived at an important and unique time in history – we have identified the need for equality and got everyone, including men, onboard too. The next big question is how to fix the system so that what we envision can become a reality. To solve this, the Forum has left its attendees with actionable steps that they can take in the workforce and beyond to join the fight. Of the many plans, policies, and collaborations discussed, the GCNC is confident that positive change is within reach in the near future. For certain, the question now is not if we will achieve gender equality – the question now is when we will achieve gender equality.

Help spread the word about this Gender Equality initiative on Social Media!

Photo Gallery


April 3rd: Welcome to the Future: A Gender Equal World

April 4th: A Gender Equal World in 2030 – How to Accelerate Action?

10:20 am to 11:20 pm: “It’s a man’s world” – or is it?

Moderated by Mary Aitken, The Verity Group of Companies, Founder and CEO


11:20 pm to 12:30 pm: Lunch

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2:30 pm to 3:45 pm: Breakout Sessions: Partner Up for Action

Breakout Session #1: Cracking the Ceiling, Raising the Floor: Women in Leadership

The session will focus on ways to empower women to take on leadership roles.



Breakout Session #2: Making Businesses Work for Women – Panel by IDRC

This session will focus on showcasing the best practices emerging from the Panelists’ research projects, as they pertain to the interlinkage of food security and income generation for women in Africa.


Breakout Session #3: Confronting the Gender Gap — What Gets Measured Gets Done

This session will look at tools, resources and approaches to setting gender equality targets and measuring progress.

Breakout Session #4: Demystifying Gender Quotas

This session will focus on the legal perspective as it pertains to gender quotas and evaluate how effective they are and what can be done to improve them.



Breakout Session #5: Equal Opportunity: Inclusion and Non-Discrimination in the Workplace

This breakout session will focus on showcasing the corporate policies and practices as they pertain to recruitment, retention practices, and gender sensitivity.



Breakout Session #6: How to Ask for Money?

This session will focus on financing and the roles different genders play. It will have an entrepreneurial focus.



To receive a Sponsorship Package and more information on opportunities to sponsor this high-level forum, please contact Helle Bank Jorgensen at








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Registration is now closed.

Location: The forum will be hosted at Deloitte Canada’s Toronto head office at 22 Adelaide St W #200, Toronto, ON M5H 0A9.

Date: April 3-4, 2017

Refund Policy: The Global Compact Network Canada will refund 75% of the purchased ticket for requests before February 15th, 2017, 50% of requests made between February 15th and March 3rd, 2017, and no refunds after March 3rd, 2017.

Attendance Sponsorship: Funding is not available to sponsor travel and participation for individuals. We are sorry for the inconvenience.