MPI tops list of FP500 companies with most women at the top: Report

One-third of public firms have zero women in senior officer roles
By Amanda Silliker
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/23/2013

Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) in Winnipeg has built a leadership culture that allows women to flourish, according to
MaryAnn Kempe, vice-president of community and corporate relations.

“Having a leadership style or culture that closely aligns and encourages women’s participation (is) a culture that is collaborative, consensus- and solution-orientated — and perhaps being more practical,” she said.

In the spirit of collaboration, each leader works with her employees to come up with a set of team goals to measure performance — and successes are celebrated as a team, said Kempe. Leaders also receive 360-degree feedback and have a variety of tools to draw upon to support collaboration.

This type of leadership culture is one of the reasons 1,900-employee MPI came in at the top of the list of Financial Post 500 companies with the most women in senior officer positions. MPI boasts 83.3 per cent female senior officers, followed by lululemon athletica (80 per cent), Dundee (66.7 per cent), Indigo (66.7 per cent) and Coast Capital Savings Credit Union (62.5 per cent).

One in five (21.7 per cent) public companies have 25 per cent or more women senior officers, found the 2012 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Senior Officers and Top Earners. The report analyzed public data filed with the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) for public companies and received data directly from private companies.

MPI also has a very robust succession plan that identifies high potentials — and women are a big part of that conversation. The company tracks the development of future leaders and ensures women have access to the types of roles that can contribute to their advancement, said Kempe.

“Often, as a professional, you can get stuck in a silo and, in my experience, you can create a glass ceiling if you don’t give folks the opportunity to broaden their experience, and so we purposefully allow for and create opportunities that might take someone into a role they would never expect to do,” she said.

Coast Capital Savings Credit Union

Coast Capital Savings Credit Union may have placed fifth on the FP500 list but the 1,900-employee credit union, based in Surrey, B.C., does not have any specific programs for the advancement of women — having female leaders is just business as usual, said Tracy Redies, president and CEO.

“It seems to be relatively easy for us to do this,” she said. “A lot of it is because we have ensured we have a lot of women in the pipeline to take on positions (so it) makes it relatively a non-issue, essentially,” she said.

Coast Capital’s flexible work arrangements are used by all employees but appeal particularly to women, said Redies. The credit union offers a wide variety of options that meet the employee’s lifestyle such as working from home on certain days or banking hours to take a day off.

“We need to help women manage other aspects of their lives, whether it’s having children or caring for elderly parents. Typically, in society, those jobs do tend to fall more onto women and it’s a critical time period (where) employers need to be able to be flexible to help women manage their situations,” said Redies.

But not all organizations are as successful with women in leadership. Women hold just 18.1 per cent of all FP500 senior officer positions, an increase of only 0.4 percentage points since 2010, found the Catalyst study. Women make up 5.7 per cent of CEOs, 6.9 per cent of top earners and 14.5 per cent of board directors.

“Overall, the numbers are disappointing for sure,” said Alex Johnston, executive director of Catalyst Canada in Toronto.

“But they are hugely important because they are concrete evidence, they hold leaders accountable. When people look at their number on the list, that should be a real motivator for business leaders to value talent and make sure they’re leveraging all the talent available to them.”

More than one-third (35.9 per cent) of public FP500 companies count no women among their senior officers, found the report. These include George Weston, Imperial Oil, Magna International, Husky Energy, Sun Life Financial, Bombardier, BMO Bank of Montreal and CIBC — all companies whose FP500 rank is in the top 21.

Companies with a high ranking have even more of a responsibility to ensure there are women in senior leadership positions, said Johnston.

“The bigger companies have a certain kind of influence and can really create peer pressure in a way that is very impactful and creates change.”


While Bombardier was on the list of companies with zero women in senior officer positions, it actually has many women in senior leadership positions, said Isabelle Rondeau, communications director at Bombardier in Montreal, which has 25,000 employees in Canada.

“We have to consider our 39 top management positions,” she said. “We have to take a step back and take a broader view — we have to put that in the context of the structure of Bombardier… If we take that view, the results are completely different.”

Bombardier has two operating groups — aerospace and transportation — of which women make up 21.4 per cent and 37.5 per cent of the top 39 senior leadership positions. It also has a division that deals with fractional jet ownership, Flexjet, of which 22.2 per cent of the top positions are held by women — and Flexjet’s president is female, said Rondeau.

Bombardier Aerospace has a Women in Leadership program to ensure women are being represented at the highest levels. Each member of the leadership team has a preset goal for women in leadership positions in order to reach a global target of 25 per cent, said Rondeau.

Bombardier Transportation has a Female Engineering Network in place that helps the company recruit female engineers worldwide. It also provides a framework for employees to develop themselves professionally and share experiences and knowledge, she said.


CIBC was also among the companies with zero women in senior officer positions, but the report only considered a very narrow slice of the population, said John Silverthorn, senior vice-president of talent management at CIBC, adding it only looked at the CEO and his direct reports.

“Obviously the facts are as they are. In this point in time — which has been different in the past where we had women who reported directly to the CEO — we do not currently have any,” he said. “(The report) tends to overlook individuals who certainly are senior officers in our organization, the way we would define it, and that population across the bank is 27 per cent (female).”

For example, 40,000-employee CIBC has female leaders heading its retail distribution business, cards business and human resources — none of whom are represented in the report, said Silverthorn.

CIBC, headquartered in Toronto, has many initiatives in place to support the advancement of women.

This year, it is pairing 10 high-potential female employees with mentors from the Women’s Executive Network — all of whom appeared on the network’s 2012 list of Canada’s top 100 most powerful women.

“It’s an opportunity to really hear from successful women outside of our own institution and be able to connect with them and learn through them what’s made them successful and help guide them a bit through the course of one year of working together,” said Silverthorn.

The bank is also heavily involved with the organization Women in Capital Markets to promote the advancement and development of women in the industry, he said.

“It’s a group where not only ourselves but many other institutions as well have been challenged in terms of (female) representation and, therefore, it gets even a little bit more focused as we try to ensure we are creating an environment where women can come in and excel in those roles.”

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