Since we began tracking the advancement of women in the corner offices of Canada’s largest publiclytraded companies, we have found both progress and disappointment along the way. This year – the Fifth Annual Rosenzweig Report – our findings lack both sentiments: progress is stalled, but we are not overly disappointed because we believe the economic turmoil, or global recession, has played a significant role.
Why would difficult economic times produce a stall in the promotion of women to the upper echelons of Corporate Canada? First, in tough times proactive initiatives such as encouraging diversity can move to the backburner in many business environments when stacked up against imperative corporate initiatives. Second, the recession has put a lot of talent “on the street” and, since men occupy most of the top executive jobs, most of that newfound available talent is male. These out-of-work male executives have a leg up in filling any possible openings because the recession halts companies from paying recruiting firms to find the unknown candidates. Friends call friends and ask for a job, either for themselves or others. In other words, bad economies tend to make businesses less creative when filling these leadership positions. Not all the data are in, but anecdotally we are seeing actions like this take place and empirical data supporting this will likely be forthcoming in the months and years ahead.
Regardless, the number of women executives at the highest levels of corporate Canada lingers around 7 per cent; 6.9 per cent in this year’s report compared to 7.2 per cent in our 2009 report. Those numbers may appear appallingly low. And they are. But we started from a base of below 5 per cent in the first Rosenzweig Report on Women at the Top Levels of Corporate Canada so there has been some progress and some cause for celebration. Albeit, when the first year number of 4.6 per cent came out, we felt a great deal of disappointment.