Canadian women represent 47% of the workforce, yet only 5.3% are CEOs and 15.9% are board directors. This imbalance of women in senior leadership roles has a significant impact on the competitiveness and success of Canadian companies across all sectors and industries.

Background

Increasing the number of women in senior leadership roles transcends gender equity imperatives. There is a strong economic and business case for increasing diversity in senior leadership. The economies of BC and Canada will benefit from engaging, sustaining, and advancing women in senior leadership positions.

Studies show that boards with representation from women perform better on success indicators. The 2011 Global Gender Gap Report from the World Economic Forum emphasized that “diverse leadership is most likely to find innovative solutions to tackle the current economic challenges and to build equitable and sustainable growth.” A 2010 report by the European Commission emphasizes that bringing women to the table in senior leadership roles is linked with greater economic growth and stability on a macro-level.

Barriers continue to dampen women’s career advancements despite significant overall increases in workforce participation. A 2012 Catalyst study noted that women receive fewer “high visibility, mission-critical roles and international experience that are integral to career advancement,” pointing towards unequal access as a cause for this gap.

Status of Women Canada has made increasing the representation of women on boards a priority. A handbook prepared for the ministry by the Conference Board of Canada cites eight strategies for increasing the number of women on boards:

  • ensuring leadership commitment
  • adopting formal board policies
  • recruiting outside of the C-Suite
  • recruiting beyond traditional networks
  • increasing the number of women in the leadership pipeline
  • sponsoring high-potential women; and
  • focusing on competencies; and ensuring nominating committee impartiality.

Momentum is building for shifting the current state; however, good intentions and media coverage will not be sufficient to meet this challenge.

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