Women losing ground in getting top jobs in executive suites

That thud you may have heard from Bay Street and other centres of Canadian enterprise is the sound of women hitting their heads on the invisible but ever-thickening glass ceiling.

According to the results of a survey released Tuesday, 16 per cent fewer women held top corporate jobs in Canada at the end of last year than in the previous year.

"This drop is disheartening and makes you wonder if anything is really going to change over the next 10 years, or even longer," said Jay Rosenzweig, managing partner of Rosenzweig & Co., which released its third annual Report on Women at the Top Levels of Corporate Canada.

"From a big-picture perspective, it's clear the 'glass ceiling' is alive and well."

The study's results showed only 31 women occupying top officer jobs, such as CEO and CFO, in Canada's 100 largest publicly traded companies. That's a dismal 5.8 per cent of the high-ranking workforce. Last year, there were 37 women in those positions, or 6.9 per cent. How many men occupied the remaining plumb positions last year? How about 504?

As to why, Rosenzweig said there are "subtle attitudes at work that continue in the workplace." A feeling, he said, still exists among too many power brokers that women "can't handle a project because they have a couple of kids at home."

"There remains this old boys' club," said Rosenzweig. "I don't think this old boys' club has died."

Fran Donaldson, president of the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, agrees.

"A lot of the organizations are still run by and large by people who are used to a male image of leadership," she said.

And that leadership consists of men wanting other men in high office to make the so-called "tough decisions." Donaldson contended it's not the tough decisions, but the "right decisions," that ought to be made.

Donaldson points to the U.S. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and the reaction to her recent "meltdown," as some media outlets described it.

"There was definitely that segment that said: 'Well that's it. She can't be a leader because she cries.' "

Donaldson said banking, accounting and the law are three fields that, generally speaking, have the highest and thickest glass ceilings.

The study said Canada's top banks -- CIBC, Bank of Montreal, Toronto-Dominion Bank and RBC -- each has at least one woman in top-earning leadership roles; RBC has two.

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