Number of female leaders hits ‘record high’ 1 in 10

'The pace of advancement continues to be painfully slow'

Number of female leaders hits ‘record high’ 1 in 10

The representation of women among the Named Executive Officers (NEOs) at Canada's largest publicly-traded companies now stands at 57 out of 523, according to a report from executive recruitment firm Rosenzweig & Company. That number is up from 50 last year, according to the report. However, the number of woman senior executives at Canada's largest corporations has now hit a record high, even if it stands at just 10.9%.

“When we began doing this research 18 years ago, there were only 23 women in these leadership positions, or 4.6 percent," said Jay Rosenzweig, founder and CEO of Rosenzweig & Company. “On the one hand, the number has more than doubled,” he added. "But the pace of advancement continues to be painfully slow.”

Recently, under Plan International Canada’s “Girls Belong Here” program, more than 30 young women stepped into the roles of CEOs, HR directors, ambassadors, members of parliament and other leaders at 11 of the company’s partner organizations. These organizations included Bank of Montreal, Royal Bank of Canada and Unilever, among others.

Gaining momentum

Among the initial 23 women in leadership positions in Rosenzweig & Company’s research, only two remain on the list: Nancy Southern (Atco's CEO) and Maureen Kelly (Russel Metals' Information Systems Officer).

But there seems to be hope for better female representation in leadership: there are 15 women on this year's list for the first time – about 25% of the total. This indicates that “upward movement for women executives is beginning to gain some momentum,” said the company.

However, the representation of women who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) remains low. Of the 57 women executives, only seven are BIPOC.

"This is a slight increase in percentage from last year but much more work remains to be done," Rosenzweig said.

The representation of women in pipeline to senior management level dropped by 11.9 percentage points this year compared to data from 2022, and the number of women already in the senior management level also decreased by 2.8 percentage points, The Prosperity Project previously reported.

That came after the share of women in leadership positions in Canada rose despite the pandemic. Back then, 41.2 per cent of those hired into leadership positions in 2021 were women – up from 39.4 per cent in 2020, according to a LinkedIn report.

What employers can do

There are a number of steps that employers can take to increase the representation of women in leadership, according to Monster. They can:

  1. Focus on promotion at the early management level.
  2. Support women’s professional goals.
  3. Provide flexibility.
  4. Address pay inequities across the board.
  5. Encourage mentoring, sponsorship and allyship.
  6. Recognize and reward the contributions that women make.
  7. Normalize nonlinear career paths.

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