Women underrepresented in corporate reports

5 times as many photos represent men: Study
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 12/16/2010

While women make up a healthy part of Canada’s workforce, corporate annual reports suggest otherwise. In looking at the photos included in the reports, the Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences found women tend to be underrepresented and are depicted in ways suggestive of less power and influence than those of men.

In comparing photos of both sexes, women were younger, more likely to be smiling and less likely to be dressed professionally. Five times as many pictures represented men versus women, and close to 90 per cent of the time, the photographs underrepresented the number of women working in the industries studied.

“When women are depicted in annual report photographs, their dress, roles, youthfulness, and lack of seriousness imply less powerful and less influential positions than men. These findings underscore concerns that women’s contribution to these corporations may be undervalued and their opportunities limited,” said Merridee Bujaki, a professor at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management and co-author of the report.

Companies would do well to more accurately reflect the number of women in their employ — the findings suggest companies that are more inclusive of women, as reflected by the frequency of photos of women in the corporate reports, tend to have better financial performance. Photographs of women in annual reports signal their contributions are welcomed and valued by a company, and serve as powerful reinforcement to women they can hold positions of power and influence, said Bujaki.

Companies in industries with a higher percentage of women in the workforce were also less likely to include pictures of the board in their annual reports, found the study by the journal, which is based out of the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

“It seems that companies from industries with many women in their work force, but few on their board, are reluctant to highlight this disparity,” said Bujaki.

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