For seven years, we at Rosenzweig & Company believed we were walking down the right path, trying to understand why the senior echelons of Corporate Canada are not more diverse, particularly when it comes to female leaders. So far, over all that time, we have seen little progress toward change as we’ve been tracking the advancement of women in the corner offices of Canada’s largest publicly-traded companies.
This year, in the Seventh Annual Rosenzweig Report, our findings clearly indicate that progress has stalled, with the same number of women in senior executive-level positions as last year.
Unlike other studies that examine the gender makeup of boards of directors or overall female percentages in management, Rosenzweig & Company’s report looks specifically at top leadership roles, where so many of the critical corporate decisions are made.
So why has there not been progress for female corporate leaders in Canada? Why are things remaining stagnant? There are no easy answers. Perhaps it is because the pool sample is relatively small. Perhaps it’s because the “Old Boys Network” is alive and well. Maybe it’s because talented women just aren’t getting enough quality mentorship to help them break through glass ceilings or possibly because more women than men on average say ‘to heck with getting to the top.’
Our report looks at the largest 100 publicly-traded corporations in Canada, based on revenue, and then examines the named executive officers (“NEOs”), whose salaries and benefits must be reported to regulatory authorities. In all, there were 517 NEOs reported to regulatory authorities at the top 100 publicly-traded Canadian corporations; 479 were men and 38 were women, but only 36 individual women.
When you crunch the data, the percentage of female executives at the highest levels of Corporate Canada has fluctuated around 7 percent over the past four years. This year’s figure is 7.4 percent, matching the high of 7.4 percent achieved last year. In our initial report in 2006, we found it to be 4.6 percent, which is the lowest it’s been in the seven years we’ve been keeping track. Even though our figures show a 61 percent increase in female executives at Canada’s largest publicly-traded companies from 2006 to 2012, those numbers still appear to be appallingly low. And they are.
In today’s society, we believe there is discontent brewing as a result of the lack of diversity at the top of Corporate Canada. At Rosenzweig & Company, our intention is to foster dialogue by continuing to shine a light on the data with the hope of promoting change.
We were heartened to see the Conservative government of Stephen Harper announce on March 29 when presenting this year’s federal budget that it is creating an advisory council to promote women as corporate directors.
The budget offered little detail regarding the council’s mandate other than promising the government will “link corporations to a network of women with professional skills and experience.”
We would have liked to see the council’s mandate go beyond the boards of directors and include encouraging companies to promote women to senior executive leadership. Perhaps the council will develop in this area too, at some point down the road.
Clearly, by creating the council, the government is indicating that it shares our opinion that quotas are not the way to go to change this culture of men’s overwhelming control of Corporate Canada. As this report points out: there is still much work to be done.