Hess Associates

Women and the Boardroom 2014

Towards the end of 2014, the Women’s Executive Network published Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winners for 2014 (https://www.wxnetwork.com/top-100/top-100-winners/).
Positions are distributed across arts and communications, finance, telecommunications, broadcasting, retail, education, and more. Globally, “women fill 13 % of executive committee roles at 150 major financial services companies and comprise 20 % of directors on their boards”.

Canada ranks third in the world for the proportion of women in executive roles in the financial services sector due to a “web of support” for gender diversity in the country (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/canada-third-in-ranking-of-women-executives-in-financial-services/article21952110/).

As heartening as this may be, at the Canadian Board level, “the female participation rate is inexplicably low for the sizable corresponding talent pool”, with “only 7 % of S&P/TSX companies disclosing strategies to increase female representation” (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-commentary/knocking-down-the-barriers-to-boardroom-gender-diversification/article21885035/).

These 100 WXN winners are not, however, for the most part, amongst the top 100 Canadian CEO big earners. Senior male executives like to suggest “that women were less ambitious than their male peers. Yet, 81% of female MBA graduates seek corporate jobs following graduation” (http://behindthenumbers.ca/2014/01/02/unlucky-lazy-or-just-female-why-there-arent-more-women-in-the-top-100/).

A study released by Catalyst Canada last year found that, in their first job right out of an MBA school, women earn nearly $8,200 a year less than their male counterparts. It also seems that males ‘typically end up with more important projects, with more direct reports and more exposure to senior executives”. These factors relate to women having less access to mentors, women having home responsibilities and being in a sandwich position, taking care of family and elderly parents, things men believe they do not have to deal with, or choose to leave to their wives, despite their wives’ professional profiles and ambitions.

In June 2014, the Government of Canada’s Advisory Council for Promoting Women on Boards presented a Status of Women Report to the Minister of Labour and Minister of the Status of Women (http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/initiatives/wldp/wb-ca/wob-fca-eng.html). This is a long report which you can peruse, pretty much dedicated to their roles (or non-roles) on Boards. Some of the issues they address are causing shareholders, executive recruiters, and the Government to promote gender balance on Boards. This is important, considering that “women now earn over half of all Canadian university degrees, and 34.5% of the Masters of Business Administration (MBAs) granted in 2011 were to women”.

Let’s hope this situation continues to ameliorate, surely and not slowly.

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