Corner office headcount: women, 3; men, 97. Go figure Some gains, but 93% of top officers are men

Nancy Southern, Kathy Bardswick and Linda Hasenfratz share something noteworthy: They are the only three women at large Canadian companies whose business cards boast the title of chief executive officer.

At first glance, the latest word on the so-called "glass ceiling" issue looks positive. A report from executive recruiter Rosenzweig & Co. found that the number of female CEOs at this country's biggest 100 publicly traded companies tripled in 2006 from the previous year. Furthermore, the number of female executives occupying top positions at the same corporations jumped 50 per cent on a year-over-year basis.

However, the fact remains: 97 of Canada's largest companies are run by male CEOs. Of the 521 most senior and highest paid-positions at these companies, 6.9 per cent were held by women -- a rise from 4.6 per cent in 2005 -- but a dominant 93.1 per cent are still held by men.

At a time when women make up more than half of the population and 42.5 per cent of the work force, 70 per cent of companies rely exclusively on male corporate officers to run the show, the report says.

Jay Rosenzweig, a managing partner at Rosenzweig, said the data show that, while some progress is being made, women are still having limited success breaking into the most senior ranks.

The "glass ceiling is cracking, but it is certainly nowhere near shattered," he said in a release. "When women represent almost half the work force, these numbers clearly state there remains an 'old boys network' at the top of Corporate Canada and there are definite barriers preventing women from reaching the top."

The Rosenzweig study looked at 100 Canadian companies with sales ranging between $1.5-billion and $32-billion in 2006.

There were three female CEO's in 2006: Ms. Southern at utility conglomerate Atco Ltd., Ms. Hasenfratz at auto parts maker Linamar Corp., and Ms. Bardswick at Co-operators General Insurance Co.

Among the very largest of the top 100 companies, only Royal Bank had more than one woman in the corner offices -- chief operating officer Barbara Stymiest and chief financial officer Janice Fukakusa.

The five other companies that had more than one woman in the highest positions -- Atco and its unit Canadian Utilities Ltd., Canadian Oil Sands Trust, Co-operators General Insurance, Linamar and Russel Metals Inc. -- rank among the smallest of the top 100 Canadian corporations.