While women have made dents in the glass ceiling, only a few have broken through, a new study shows.The annual Rosenzweig Report on Women at the Top Levels of Corporate Canada found that 37 women now hold top officer jobs in Canada's 100 largest publicly traded companies, up from 23 the previous year. There are three women CEOs, compared to only one the year before, the report showed.
But while the one-year increase is noteworthy, the numbers underline the need to do more when it comes to gender imbalance at the highest levels, the report concludes. "Diversity initiatives have been a big part of Canadian corporate life over the last decade or so," said Jay Rosenzweig, managing partner of Rosenzweig & Company. "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." Pamela Jeffery, founder of the Women's Executive Network, agreed the improvement is good news, but there is a lot of work still to do.
"(Progress) is very slow but seems steady," she said.
Studies by her organization show that a lack of women role models and mentors is one of the biggest barriers to women advancing into senior corporate ranks. "Women in their 40s and 50s have had to open doors themselves," Jeffrey said. Now the door has opened, women should aspire for the top and not sell themselves short, she added. "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 said.
Jeffrey said women must build a strong network of contacts, and ensure they are invited to the "meeting after the meeting," which is a hallmark of the old boys club. Women who have reached the top levels often say they have had to perform better or prove themselves more qualified than male counterparts, Jeffrey said. One successful woman said she developed a "pit-bull personality," she added.
Studies have found companies with higher representation of women in leadership roles outperform other companies with fewer women leaders. The report echoes the findings of a 2006 U.S. study conducted by Catalyst that showed women continue to be passed over for top corporate leadership positions.
The Catalyst census, which tracked women executives in the Fortune 500, found that most large U.S. companies have made scant progress in advancing women to leadership and top-paying positions over the past decade. "If this rate of progress continues, it could take 40 years for women to achieve parity with men in corporate officer positions," the report said.
WOMEN HOLDING TOP OFFICER JOBS IN CANADA
Rosenzweig & Company analyzed the 100 biggest publicly-traded companies in Canada, based on revenue.
TOP OFFICER JOBS HELD BY CANADIANS
93.1 % men down from 95.4% last year
6.9 % women up from 4.6% last year
Source: Annual Rosenzweig Report on Women at the Top Levels of Corporate Canada, 2006