Wanna buy a chocolate bar? Need a shoe shine?

The votes are in.  The dye has been cast.  There’s no going back.  Just before the holidays, Your Working Girl took note that Pathways to Education has appointed a new CEO.  And the direction the Board of Directors intends to take could not be clearer.

Incoming top executive, Vivian Prokop, most recently finished a 10-year stint as CEO of the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF) and before that spent 17 years with CIBC.

The CYBF helps “young people with brilliant business ideas,” said Ms Prokop in a 2011 web interview.   Funded primarily by Industry Canada with a sprinkling of corporate support, CYBF issues start-up loans to entrepreneurs aged 18 – 34.   According to her bio, CYBF grew from a small foundation to the “largest and most effective youth entrepreneurship organization in the country” under her stewardship.

Ms Prokop brings that financial and entrepreneurial perspective to the job of helping children in Canada’s most vulnerable communities.

In her message for visitors to the Pathways website, she laments the lack of parental support, role models, challenges to succeed and an ingrained culture of failure in “impoverished neighbourhoods” for causing an “enormous strain on public expenditures” and declares that:

Pathways to Education is working to help make Canada a Graduation Nation. Through three integrated strategies – program excellence and innovation, national expansion, and broadened impact …  [it will] bolster our country’s productivity and prosperity. 

Your Working Girl was relieved to hear that Pathways is now focused on bolstering the country’s productivity and prosperity, and that poor children will cease to be a drain on the public purse.

That an organization receiving tens of millions in public funding to help vulnerable children is using potential economic output as a benchmark of a child’s success was of great comfort to her, as her Gentle Readers might imagine.

That is, if using the five-cent language of pro-business, anti-tax reformers to talk about vulnerable children weren’t so unseemly.

To Your Working Girl’s mushy mind, there are many other reasons to work with at-risk communities and help children succeed at school.   Facilitating opportunity for children, safety, ability to engage in society, expressing themselves, feeling like they belong are a few that come to mind.

But Your Working Girl didn’t just fall off a turnip truck.  She understands that vast forces operate on organizations like Pathways and that the pressures on Boards of Directors are great.  She sees that the choice of Ms Prokop, with her proven financial background and success in snagging federal funding, is a natural one for the Pathways Board.  They see her as someone they can do business with or, perhaps more to the point, can do business with them.  And the Pathways Board is nothing, if not all, about business – the investment business, to be precise.

Your Working Girl might be mistaken (and believe her when she tells you she has been mistaken from time to time), but this may very well be the most homogeneous Board of Directors she has ever clapped her eyes on.

Nine of 15 (60%) of board members are leaders in investment companies, holding companies or capital firms.

Board Chair, Sam Duboc, is Chair of Edgestone Capital and a Special Advisor (Venture Capital) to federal Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty.

The other six include a judge, a branding VP for Manulife, the CEO of a private college, a political communications specialist, a business owner and the CEO of Ernst & Young.

There is no person of colour on the Pathways board, although four women are board members.

By way of comparison, the BMO Financial Group board, with a higher percentage of women, is made up of educators, lawyers and executives from the food, telecommunications, natural resources and insurance sector.

So while Your Working Girl confesses some wariness around the background of the new Pathways CEO, she feels some empathy towards her.  That’s because, and Your Working Girl agrees she might be playing to the Gordon Gekko stereotype here, she wouldn’t want to be the one staring down the barrel of the Pathways Board right now trying to impress upon them the value of a child’s sense of security.

There’s something important at play here besides tens of millions of dollars in public funding.

On its website, the Pathways model is described as being “embedded within trusted local organizations, and dedicated to equality, inclusion and accessibility …”

“Pathways,” it says, “is a collective movement of the community for education.”

What the “movement”, headed up by white, male venture capitalists and investment fund managers, and fitted out with millions in public funding, looks like to “impoverished neighbourhoods” has yet to take shape.

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