Glass ceiling harder to break through

Few women in Canada are making it to the very top, shows a study released Wednesday.

The already small number of women holding the top executive jobs a Canada's largest public companies shrank in the last year, according to a report by Rosenzweig & Company Inc., a corporate recruitment firm.

Thirty-one women now hold top executive positions at the hundred largest public companies in Canada, compared with 37 the year ago.

"The fact that women in top executive jobs went down compared to last year did compass surprised us," Jay Rosenzweig, managing partner of the Toronto firm, send an interview Wednesday.

"We expected some increased assuming corporate Canada is making perhaps slow but steady progress letting more women in. Our data shows that assumption is wrong. Compared to last year, we went backwards."

The company look at the highest-paid executive officers of public companies, based on annual salary and bonus.

Public companies are required to disclose to shareholders names and salaries of the Chief Executive Officer's, chief financial officers and at least three other highest-paid executives.

Women make up 5.8% of 535 top officers at the hundred biggest public corporations.

A year ago, women held 6.9% of the 535 positions.

The major banks are included on the list of the largest 100 public companies.

Some other firms include Enbridge, CanWest Global Communications, Alcan and Canadian Pacific Railway.

The 100 largest public companies report annual revenue of $1.7 billion to $26 billion annually.

Rosenzweig, which began its annual ranking in 2006, found the number of women in the top jobs grew to 6.9% from 4.6% from 2006 to 2007.

"We were kind of encouraged... but then it dropped this year," Mr. Rosenzweig said.

"But if you think about it, social change in general typically does not take a linear trajectory. There are typically ups and downs when trying to effect change over the course of time."

Despite male domination in big corporations, the number of entrepreneurs in Canada is growing at a phenomenal rate, says Shelley Simpson – McKay, executive director of the Center for Women in Business at Mount St. Vincent University.

"Women entrepreneurs are growing at a rate 2 to 3 times greater than male entrepreneurs," she said Wednesday.

"The thing that we are hearing is that it is better sitting there needs. You need the flexibility, you need the ability to make your own decisions and so forth."

The Rosenzweig report also found that 74% of Canada's biggest public companies are run at the highest levels solely by men.

97 of the top 100 publicly traded companies have male Chief Executive Officer's.

Some women surveyed for the Rosenzweig report indicated that subtle discrimination such as lack of flexibility by some employers and lack of support can stop them from advancing in the top positions.

"Ultimately, businesses will recognize that it is in their best interest to support both men and women and the need to have strong families," Mr. Rosenzweig said.