International Women’s Day Celebrates Inclusion in 2024

The Government of Canada’s theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) 2024 is "Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress," and CPRS Vancouver is delighted to share an exclusive interview with the Communications and PR Specialist, Aimee Manimani Nsimire

In this article, Aimee shares valuable insights on how she overcame obstacles and achieved success in complex environments. Whether you are a communication professional or simply interested in making a difference, you will benefit from Aimee’s story.

It’s great to talk to you! Can you tell us about your career progression as a woman leader to be the Communications Manager at the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the path you took? Can you elaborate more on the journey and the challenges and obstacles you’ve encountered and how you’ve faced to overcome them in the shadow of adversity and to be in the position you are now in. 

At age 22, I graduated in communications and was offered an internship, a position I found did not immensely fulfill my career growth dreams. I was a junior and felt my contribution to the team and potential could have been more valued. I decided to move on and later received a staff position in a World Bank-funded program. This was back then in the DR Congo, and the fact that I was a woman would prevail over my skills and efforts. I would receive remarks and condescending proposals for an after-work dinner, gifts, etc. However, I knew my value and firmly believed I could be an essential communication player.

I later joined the aid and UN development agencies in roles including Senior Communications Officer, Regional Communications Specialist, and Regional Communications Officer. I supported regions in implementing emergency communications strategies and designed public relations strategies for corporate social responsibility for companies and United Nations agencies. At this point, I had outgrown my communication skills, but I could still feel that I was somehow not given credit in some instances because of my francophone and geographical origins.

I am lucky to be living in times when the concepts of diversity and inclusion are pretty popular, but beyond being a woman, I was still confronted with the fact that I was not a native English speaker and that my country of origin, my culture, and background was one of those that are not quite well known, nor understood. At that point, I decided to enroll in a Georgetown University Public Relations and Corporate Communications graduate program. My family and I moved to Washington, D.C., where I completed two semesters and, later on, relocated to Canada. 

According to a 2023 report published by Osler, titled “Report 2023 Diversity Disclosure Practices", diversity and leadership at Canadian public companies, a woman was chosen to fill vacant board positions 45.3 percent of the time. What needs to be done to help corporate executives understand the value and importance of women at a senior leadership position, role, or in a board position?"​

Representation matters; it creates a precedent. Not only do many women deserve to be in leadership positions, as shown by recent statistics on women who graduate each year, but having women in such roles could help unlock companies’ potential to reach out to additional demographics’ interests, including women’s.

Numbers should talk by themselves, and that is a language that corporate executives can understand. Having a diversified board or senior leadership team brings in perspectives that can only benefit a company as it helps reach out to new markets and new segments of customers. With a diverse group of leaders, a brand is sure to be able to speak to its stakeholders in a way that they understand, creating a sense of belonging and ownership. 

2023 Diversity Disclosure Practices mentioned that corporations governed by the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA), have standards to meet when it comes to incorporating inclusive employment since 5.4% had a female CEO, 6% had a female board chair, and 45.9% had at least one female committee chair. These numbers are low, but it can give young women visions to inspire to be the next Tamara Vrooman, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Vancouver International Airport Authority (YVR). What's your advice to young women wanting to lead and be that beacon of hope for next generations? 

When Tamara Vrooman was refused a position with British Columbia’s Ministry of Finance, she enrolled at the University of Victoria and later became British Columbia’s first and youngest female deputy minister of finance. To a young woman wanting to lead at the top, I would say: have an honest conversation with yourself; know who you are; list your pains, aptitudes, and attitudes; and work on those.

Leadership is about accountability with yourself, your team, and your external stakeholders. In today’s business landscape, where customers want more than just services but a brand that represents their aspirations regarding social responsibility and social change, a truthful leader is an asset for an organization’s ROI. 

What are best practices for increasing diversity and helping women become the best they can be as companies are developing diverse strategies to help women lead in the workforce?

Companies’ commitment to diversity is an excellent asset in the move to gender equality and the inclusion of women in leadership roles. Consultation is key. Women should be the ones to indicate how best companies are reaching out to them and what relevant solutions are to existing barriers.

Additionally, to achieve real social change in business, companies must challenge what they know and are used to: their knowledge about the audiences they serve, including their customers, staff, suppliers, and other stakeholders at all levels. Here comes a consideration for intersectionality factors while implementing diversity and representation:  race, gender, socioeconomic status, geography, languages, etc., need to be considered.

It is indeed the perfect opportunity to create actual social justice in the world of work and to serve better and reach out to a broader range of stakeholders and clients by selling and obtaining services and creating a sustainable relationship. 
Given the ever-changing landscape where more female leaders are emerging across various sectors, what strategies will these leaders utilize to incorporate and sustain employees from underrepresented groups? It ultimately comes down to inclusion, and fostering a sense of belonging which stems from an inclusive and positive work environment and culture.

That is right! Companies need to understand their internal audiences better, identify their fundamental interests and aspirations, and live up to those by integrating them into their communications and the organization’s culture. 

How will women leaders look to incorporate new technologies and tools like AI into their daily lives as PR professionals? Do you think it will be helpful and more so make an impact and or difference?  
With the variety of AI tools and services, and based on evolving customer needs in a digital era and a purpose-driven clientele, women leaders should use technologies to gain more insights into their audiences’ sentiments and industry trends to stay up to their game.

For me, the expected impact is an industry that understands its customers better and has opportunities for market growth while better serving customers. With services like social listening, media monitoring, sentiment analysis, and content creation, AI has been a game changer in the PR industry by automating repetitive tasks and analyzing data.

With real-time insights into their audiences’ sentiments and behavior relating to their brands, PR companies can prevent future crises. 
This International Women's Day, join the movement towards gender equality and inclusive growth by visiting the UN International Women's Day website for facts and resources that will help invest in women and accelerate progress.