Canada Lacks Women in Top Jobs
Reflective of a trend across North America, the number of women in top executive jobs at Canada’s largest publicly traded companies has stalled and the economic downturn has likely been a contributing factor, concludes a report by leading executive search firm Rosenzweig & Company.
“Since we began tracking the advancement of women in the senior ranks, we’ve found both progress and disappointment,” says Jay Rosenzweig, managing partner of Rosenzweig & Company, which operates in New York and Toronto. “This latest report finds the progress halted, but we’re not so much disappointed this year as hopeful that things will pick up as the economy picks up and as more of these positions become available, more qualified women will fill them.”
Today, 6.9% of the most senior corporate offices are occupied by women, compared with 7.2% in last year’s report. The first Rosenzweig Report on Women at the Top Levels of Corporate Canada, published in 2005, found that a mere 4.6% of the most senior executives were women.
One executive who has been on the list for the past three years says research like this is important to promote the advancement of qualified women executives.
“This research is important, but what is more important is what companies like Agrium do with this information to support women in leadership positions,” says Leslie O’Donoghue, chief legal officer and senior vice president, business development for Agrium Inc. “A diversity of ideas and backgrounds is good news for increasing shareholder value. There is a deep pool of talented women at Agrium and across the country who are ready and able to move into top senior positions. We need to focus upon mentoring and leadership development to facilitate women’s advancement.”
Despite much time and effort invested in diversity initiatives over the past decade, the overall gains for women at the top levels have been marginal, at best, adds Martha Fell, chief executive officer of Women in Capital Markets, an advocacy group for women in financial services. “Can you imagine a CEO investing this much time and money in a new product with little or no increase in sales?” Fell asks. “He would be very much accountable to the board of directors. The same accountability should apply to moving beyond talk to promoting talented and qualified women to leading executive posts.”
Besides the recession, other reasons for the slow advancement of senior women executives could be a lack of critical mass of women leaders who could act as mentors and coaches at the highest levels, and a lingering “gender bias” or “old boys’ network” mentality in corporations. “What is so striking to me is how aligned the numbers are between Canada and the U.S. in terms of the gender make-up of senior executives and at the board level,” says Jay Rosenzweig. “Both countries have women holding less than 7% of senior executive jobs and at the board level, the U.S. is 15.2% women and Canada is just behind at 13%. It is disheartening that board-level improvements have not trickled down to the senior management positions where so many decisions are made in terms of strategy and corporate culture.”
The fifth annual Rosenzweig Report found that 35 women now hold top officer jobs in Canada’s 100 largest publicly traded companies; down from 36 last year. There are 547 of these positions at the 100 companies.
Among other findings in the 2010 Rosenzweig Report:
Rosenzweig & Company analyzed the 100 biggest publicly traded companies in Canada with annual revenues that ranged from $2.2 billion to $37.6 billion in 2009.
All these corporations must name and publicly disclose the compensation of their Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer and at least the next three highest-compensated executive officers. Some companies list more than five officers, which created the 547 total executive positions.