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Women Passed Over for Top Positions in Canada’s Best Companies

Fewest women senior officers in Alberta, most in Nova Scotia, research shows

By Justina Reichel
Epoch Times Staff
Created: February 20, 2013 Last Updated: February 20, 2013
Related articles: Canada » National
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Businesspeople have an informal discussion in an office. Women hold only 18.1 percent of senior officer positions in Canada’s Financial Post 500 companies, according to a recent report, which states that the untapped, growing talent pool of potential women business leaders presents opportunities for corporate Canada. (Goodluz/Photos.com)

Businesspeople have an informal discussion in an office. Women hold only 18.1 percent of senior officer positions in Canada’s Financial Post 500 companies, according to a recent report, which states that the untapped, growing talent pool of potential women business leaders presents opportunities for corporate Canada. (Goodluz/Photos.com)

The glass ceiling is a reality for over 80 percent of women working in Canada’s top companies, say census figures released by Catalyst, an inclusive workplace research and advocacy group.

Women hold only 18.1 percent of senior officer positions in Canada’s Financial Post 500 companies, according to the 2012 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Senior Officers and Top Earners, a biennial report released Tuesday.

The results were virtually identical to the previous census, with an overall increase of 0.4 percentage points since 2010.

“The untapped, growing talent pool of potential women business leaders presents opportunities for corporate Canada,” says Alex Johnston, executive director of Catalyst Canada.

Fortune 500 companies with more women officers on average financially outperform those with fewer women officers and are more philanthropic, the research found.

“With women holding 6 of 10 provincial premier posts, we ought to be asking ourselves, ‘Why not advance more women into senior business leadership?’”

The report also found that more than one-third (35.9 percent) of public FP500 companies have no women whatsoever among their senior officers—including firms such as Viterra Inc., Bank of Montreal, Leon’s Furniture Ltd., and Husky Energy Inc.

Women Fare Worst in Alberta, Best in Nova Scotia

Only 12.5 percent of women in Alberta held senior positions, the lowest in Canada, the research found, followed by Saskatchewan (13.6 percent) and Newfoundland and Labrador (15.4 percent).

The low ratio of women senior officers working in these province’s resource-based economies reflected larger industry trends. Industries with the lowest representation of women in its top ranks included agriculture, forestry, hunting and fishing, mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction.

The highest ratio of women at the top, however, was 24.3 percent in Nova Scotia, followed by Manitoba (22.8 percent) and Ontario (20.7 percent).

Industries with the highest percentage of female senior officers include accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance, and public administration.

Diversity an Asset to Growing Businesses

According to Catalyst research, there is a strong case for increasing women’s representation in business leadership. For example, Fortune 500 companies with more women officers on average financially outperform those with fewer women officers and are more philanthropic, the research found.

“Despite the [census] results, we see progress in organizations where advancing women to senior leadership is an essential and integrated part of the business strategy,” says Johnston.

If businesses seek growth—either locally or worldwide—they must hire workforces with diverse perspectives in order to challenge outdated ideas and adapt to new environments, according to Ernst & Young, ranked one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers for the past six years.

Ranking of Canadian women according to their position in the labour force. (Catalyst)

Ranking of Canadian women according to their position in the labour force. (Catalyst)

“We’ve learned that by integrating these values into our core processes—including promotions, recruitment, succession planning, client service, and business development initiatives—we can better attract, retain, and empower top talent at every level,” says Steve Shea, Managing Partner, People, at Ernst & Young.

“If organizations can do these things and remain globally united under a single mission, they’ll gain a distinct competitive advantage on a global scale.”

According to the Ernst & Young diversity policy, inclusiveness is not only about being politically correct or the “right thing to do,” it’s vital to a company’s sustainability and also makes good business sense.

“It’s about embracing the different ideas, perspectives, skills, and experiences that diverse individuals bring to the table—and putting them together to address familiar problems in new and innovative ways,” states the diversity policy.

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