Founder and Chief Equality officer, Women in Governance and
multiple board member, named Top 100 most powerful women in Canada
Caroline Codsi’s formative years were spent on the move, fleeing the ravages of the Lebanese civil war.
Between her 7th and 22nd birthdays, she and her “resilient, positive, optimistic” family moved back and forth from her native Beirut in between ceasefires eight times.
“I was never more than two years at the same school,” she recalls. “Every time we started over, it forced me out my comfort zone, to be outgoing, to meet new people. Ultimately, it taught me to love different groups.”
Coming of age against the backdrop of war also set the stage for a fight for equality that continues today.
“When I think about the stupidity of the destruction, treason, and injustices… those who were most negatively impacted were women and children, while the perpetrators were all men.”
At 17, she moved to Paris by herself. She found a maid’s chamber (attic) apartment and then a job. And she put herself through school and university.
Five years later her parents moved from Beirut to Montréal and she decided to join them. She completed another university degree, and found corporate success in la métropole.
“The fact that I had no real network, I think, helped me,” Caroline says. “It was sink or swim, so I swam real fast! I knew I had to be unstoppable. I sincerely thought I could be anything I wanted to be. So, I did it.”
Working with Canadian blue chips and multi-national firms on HR/talent management and business development, Caroline earned the nickname “Tsunami” for her drive to move people and organizations forward, fast.
“I bulldozed my way through with elegance and with good will. I brought as many people along with me as I could,” she says. “I quickly learned that authentic leaders recognize differences and celebrate them.”
In 2010, she founded Women in Governance (WiG), a not-for-profit dedicated to women’s career advancement and accession to boardrooms and decision-making tables. WiG’s Parity Certification program grounds gender equality on four pillars:
- Women trusting themselves to be ready for the mantle of leadership
- Men understanding gender bias and support gender equality as allies
- Corporate activities to assess/audit parity gaps and measure progress
- Governments at all levels promoting policies and programs to support
“We still have a lot of work to do,” she says candidly. “Men have an active role to play, and we have to empower them to be allies. But sometimes it is women who are most disappointing. Some are hesitant to appear self-serving or they’re overly cautious, but we need to put our money where our mouth is.”
With one-third of Canadian boards still without any female members at all, Caroline says – despite the gains of recent years – WiG’s cause and her fight are far from over.
Get to know all of our panelist for the Women In Rail event here.