Women still missing from senior management positions: Conference Board

Job rotation, mentorships can help reduce gap
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 09/07/2011

The presence of Canadian women in senior management positions has stalled in the past two decades, according to a report by the Conference Board of Canada.

Between 1987 and 2009, the proportion of women in senior management has changed little — men are still more than twice as likely to hold a senior executive position, found Women in Senior Management: Where Are They?

“Women have made great progress in many areas of society over the past 22 years, but not in the ranks of senior management positions,” said Anne Golden, president and CEO of the Conference Board of Canada. “Now that the rousing early days of feminism are behind us, perhaps we have become complacent about the success of women in senior management.”

In 2009, women made up almost 48 per cent of the Canadian labour force, yet only 0.32 per cent (26,000 of more than eight million working women) held senior management positions, found the report. While the absolute number of women in senior management rose from less than 15,000 in 1987, females are still significantly underrepresented at the senior executive level compared to males. In 2009, 0.64 per cent of all men employed (56,200 of the 8.8 million men employed in the Canadian labour force) held senior management positions.

Since 1987, men have consistently been two to three times more likely than women to hold senior management positions.

Similar results are found at the middle-management levels — which includes directors and managers — that frequently provide the feeder pool for future executives. Men have consistently been 1.5 times more likely than women to hold middle management positions over the past 22 years, said the Conference Board.

“Between 1987 and 2009, the proportion of women in middle management rose by about four per cent. At that rate, it will take approximately 151 years before the proportion of men and women at the management level is equal,” said Golden.

This report outlines good practices that successful companies are already using to increase the proportion of female senior managers:

•Use accountable search techniques by ensuring female candidates are on all short lists.

•Identify talent and provide succession planning initiatives.

•Set up mentoring and coaching programs.

•Offer job rotation opportunities.

•Ensure ongoing measurement.

•Create an inclusive work environment.

•Avoid putting women in precarious positions without giving them the support and preparation needed to succeed — a woman’s failure in an executive role may be attributed to her gender rather than to the circumstances of the position.

• Highlight role models and communicate success.

•Ensure senior management support.

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