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Lead the Change

The Competitive Advantage of Gender Diversity and Inclusion

It is time to change the paradigm on the gender diversity and inclusion conversation from a “women’s issue” to an everybody issue.

Lead the Change: The Competitive Advantage of Gender Diversity and Inclusion engages leaders on compelling reasons why to target gender equality as a business imperative and how to go about it effectively.

A clever and engaging read, this book will guide you on how to be the change, make the change—and leverage the change…into dollars.

Books ordered through LeadtheChangeBook.com are autographed. 

Lead the Change book cover - shows two gears - one with male symbol with the arrow and the other female symbol with the cross/plus

About The Book

Lead the Change: The Competitive Advantage of Gender Diversity and Inclusion is intended to help any senior leader in any sector understand the impetus behind this cutting-edge issue and how, by pursuing a culture shift in their organization, they will have a leg up on the competition in this ever-competing global market, and see the incredible economic and social benefits for women and men.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

What’s inside





The Importance of Timely Course-Correction

What is the Business Advantage?

The Cost of Inaction

My Introduction to Working in GDI



Emotional and Social Intelligence

Corporate Social Intelligence Skills

Men as Advocates


Chapter 3: BE THE CHANGE

Model and Commit

Say It

Show It



Phase 1: Planning

Phase 2: Design

Phase 3: Implementation



Accountability Is Key

Sustaining Behaviour Changes

Return on Investment: The ROI on GDI

Chapter 1:

In keeping with the advice Wayne Gretzky’s father gave him, decision-makers know that it’s critical to anticipate where the puck is going in order to get into position and score.

Being able to see “the next big thing” is what can differentiate successful companies from the pack and propel them forward financially, while simultaneously motivating employees through a sense of pride in working there. Leadership comes from stepping up and out—often when others don’t see the benefits yet—and bringing employees along to make fundamental change happen. And one of the issues that requires fundamental change is gender diversity and inclusion.

Although there are some who still have their heads in the sand, those of us above-ground are seeing the signs and messages all around, poking us and reminding us that change is coming regarding what our workforce needs to look like.

Legislation on gender diversity and inclusion is popping up
around the world, and the number of female university graduates— including the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields—is increasing. Women are chomping at the bit to getworking and take on a career path to the boardroom or in technical positions. Shareholders are now asking questions regarding how many women sit on boards, and they are asking companies to be transparent with their numbers on gender diversity. Goldman Sachs just came out with a headline stating that “boards packed with bros don’t get IPOs.4”5 These types of messages send a pretty clear signal that an all-male board no longer cuts it, and if you want to get capital, you must diversify your gender composition. These are solid indicators that change is afoot.

In spite of these indicators, however, many decision-makers are still asking what exactly the value proposition is. What is the business case, or as I like to call it, the business advantage? Let me begin by answering this and lower the fog index so that we can get past questions about why we need to do this and get on with how to make it happen.

The Importance of Timely Course-Correction

Over the years, I have witnessed firsthand the importance of accurately predicting the course of the proverbial puck—seeing the change before it happens and adjusting accordingly. I have also learned that seeing what’s coming isn’t enough. It’s the ability to convince others of imminent change that really moves the needle.

Back in 1992, when I graduated from the University of Toronto with an environmental science degree, the environment industry was hardly up and running yet. I went to the yellow pages and looked up the few meagre listings for environmental companies at that time, called each one of them on my landline, and asked if they were hiring. The effort paid off, and I was fortunate enough to land my first “real” job with an environmental consulting firm in Toronto. I was one of five environmental scientists hired to study the socio-economic impact of a landfill site selection project in the Greater Toronto Area.

There were five potential landfill sites, and one of them was
assigned to me. My job was to cold call those who lived next to or near the potential landfill, ask to meet with them, and conduct an in-person interview about what the social and economic impact would be to them if the landfill were to go in their area.

Clearly, these were not going to be happy people.

I knew I had my work cut out for me, but I didn’t hesitate to get on the phone and line up my interviews. I was always met at the door with anger and frustration about the issue at hand, but inevitably, after a two- or sometimes three-hour interview at their kitchen table, I would leave on good terms—sometimes with fresh-cut flowers and vegetables from their garden. One time, I was asked if I could come back and babysit their kids!

My boss was always amazed when I came back to the office with all these goodies. I guess that’s why, at the end of that project, when they only wanted to keep one of the five of us on, I was asked to stay.

Although flattered by the offer, I had other ideas about what I wanted to do and had another offer in the wings to work at the Ontario Environment Industry Association, an offer I ended up accepting.

When I look back at that experience, I see that it taught me so much beyond socio-economic issues surrounding a landfill. It taught me hands-on emotional intelligence skills like empathy, self-awareness, assertiveness, and flexibility, among others. I also learned the importance of engaging in difficult conversations, the importance of having others feel heard, and correcting misinformation when necessary.

What is the Business Advantage?

A pretty common question on the topic of gender diversity and inclusion is, “Why would we want to bother doing anything on this issue in the workplace when there is no clear imperative to do so? Things are fine as they are!”

Here is what I say to that. We don’t have the luxury of debating this conversation anymore.

As I have shared…



Inclusiveness is not only a social issue but also a key business driver. Diversity & Inclusion needs to be a strategic priority for any leader, and this book is a must-read for anyone wishing to leverage this competitive advantage.

Virginie Hotte-Dupuis, Chef communications externes & philanthropie, L’Oréal Canada

Cooper shows us that leadership matters and that we can all make a difference – no matter where our organization might be on the Diversity & Inclusion continuum. She combines the value proposition for GDI with a blueprint on how to effectively move an organization to be more diverse and inclusive. If you fear failure, have concern that your team won’t buy in, or that your metrics won’t tell you the story you want, this book will alleviate those concerns and motivate you to take action.

Derek Nighbor, President and Chief Executive Officer, Forest Products Association of Canada

Lead the Change is a terrific guide to creating gender inclusive, diverse, and equitable workplaces. It clearly outlines a pathway for the initiatives, competencies, and policies that are critical to move forward in a positive way. Having been personally involved in Kelly Cooper’s innovative approach of tackling this issue on a sector-wide basis, I know this approach should be celebrated and emulated. Read and study this book as soon as you can!

Michael Kaufman, author, “The Time Has Come. Why Men Must Join the Gender Equality Revolution” and member of the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council, 2018 and 2019

Augmented by practical global leading-edge examples, any decision maker reading this book will have a logical and clear path toward shifting their organization toward a more inclusive workplace culture. A great read!

Tanya Wick, Vice President People & Services, Tolko Industries Ltd.

The financial and business case for Diversity & Inclusion is clear and well documented, yet achieving it remains an elusive goal for many companies and sectors. The insights and tools shared in Cooper’s book can help companies better understand – and ultimately overcome – their barriers to lasting Diversity & Inclusion in the workplace, bridging the gap between ambition and achievement.

Felix Lee, President Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada

I am really thrilled to support Cooper’s book that inspires action from leaders and executives on Gender Diversity & Inclusion. Sodexo knows that gender balance fosters creativity and innovation and ultimately drives better business results. When women reach their full potential, business and society are stronger and more successful. I definitely think this book will be helpful to leaders and organizations.

Normand St-Gelais, Director of Corporate Responsibility, Sodexo

About the author.

photo of Kelly Cooper

Kelly Cooper is the Founder and President of the Centre for Social Intelligence (CSI). Ms. Cooper helps leaders transform their organizations to be more gender diverse and inclusive through coaching, communications, training, and skills development. Her company also conducts gender gap audit assessments, develops GDI strategies, and leads national sector-wide gender diversity action plans.

Ms. Cooper has been a guest speaker at various domestic and international conferences aimed at increasing women in senior executive roles and in technical positions. Her goal is to empower women and men with the necessary tools to create a respectful workplace where everyone contributes to higher performance and, ultimately, higher economic returns. At the core, GDI is not just a women’s issue—it’s an everybody issue. Multi-faceted actions are needed to effect sustained change. It starts with leadership.

Over her twenty-five-year career, Ms. Cooper has worked in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe on various sustainable development projects. She holds a Master of Arts degree in International Environment, Development and Policy from the University of Sussex, UK, and an Honours Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Toronto, as well as certifications in GBA+, EQ-i 2.0, and ProSci change management (ADKAR model).

Kelly Cooper

make a change

The Centre for Social Intelligence is proud to donate $5 from every “Lead the Change” shirt to the Ottawa Coalition To End Violence Against Women.

In Canada, violence against women shelters, sexual assault centres, and other front-line services addressing gender-based violence have experienced extraordinary strain on their resources as they work to support survivors of violence during the pandemic. Shelters have seen up to a 300% increase in calls and in some areas of Canada, an increase of up to 22% in domestic violence incidents 1 . We would like to offer our support to OCTEVAW, who work tirelessly to support and advocate for these front-line servicesas a thank you for the work that they are doing and continue to do in our community. To learn more about OCTEVAW, and the work that they are doing click here.

Order Your Autographed Copy Today!

Lead the Change

The competitive advantage of gender diversity and inclusion

Lead the Change book cover - shows two gears - one with male symbol with the arrow and the other female symbol with the cross/plus

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