'Glass Ceiling' Cracks - but it's still firmly in place

There has been a 50-per-cent increase in women holding top executive positions in Canada, an annual ranking finds.

However, the one-year blip does little to reduce the gender imbalance at the top, as only 6.9 per cent of executive offices are currently filled by women, says Rosenzweig & Co., author of the report.

The annual report found that 37 women now hold top jobs in Canada's 100 largest publicly traded companies, up from only 23 the previous year. There are three women CEOs, compared to only one the year before.

"Diversity initiatives have been a big part of Canadian corporate life over the last decade or so," says Jay Rosenzweig, managing partner of Rosenzweig & Co., an executive search firm.

"These numbers show us that something is still not right, but they also tell us there's been some progress. More women made it to corner offices last year so the glass ceiling is cracking; but it is certainly nowhere near shattered."

Six companies now have multiple women holding high-level positions, but five of these companies rank among the smallest of the top 100 companies.

Amid the giants, only RBC Financial Group has multiple women in the top ranks with COO Barbara Stymiest and CFO Janice Fukakusa.

"When women represent almost half the workforce, 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," Rosenzweig says. The irony is that companies only hurt themselves by ignoring such a huge talent pool of women when promoting to the top, the report says. Studies have found companies with higher representation of women in leadership out-perform companies with fewer women leaders.

Adds Rosenzweig: "When Baby Boomers step down from their top jobs, the war for executive talent will intensify. Women are the largest talent pool that companies simply cannot afford to ignore."