Canada is lagging behind to support women in leadership roles, and the shortcoming is noticeable both on a local and international scale.
From the absence of Canadians in celebrity-filled lists to empty seats in board rooms, two notable organizations have called out the lack of women leaders.
The Conference Board of Canada revealed Wednesday the number of women in senior management positions has barely changed in the past 22 years leaving men more than twice as likely to hold these positions. In 2009, women made up 48 per cent women of the labour force, yet only 0.32 per cent held senior management positions, according to the report.
“Now that the rousing early days of feminism are behind us, perhaps we have become complacent about the success of women in senior management,” Anne Golden, president and chief executive officer at the board, said in the report.
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HuffPost Canada has put together a list of Canada’s most influential leaders today who excel in their own fields. Who do you think are Canada's most influential female leaders?
Author Margaret Atwood is one of Canada's literary icons, with more than 50 volumes of poetry, children's books, and most famously, novels. She recently made headlines as an advocate for Toronto libraries, started Twitter war with Toronto mayor Rob Ford and his brother, and crashed the server of a petition by directing her 225,000 followers to sign. A subsequent grass-roots campaign is jockeying for Atwood to replace Ford as mayor. Now that's power.
Olivia Chow is an NDP Member of Parliament and former city councillor in Toronto. A longtime crowd favourite and advocate for citizenship and , Chow has been in the political sphere since 1991. After the recent news her husband and NDP leader Jack Layton's death, many wonder if Chow will take over as party leader.
Bonnie Brooks is the first female president and CEO of Canada's oldest retailer, The Hudson's Bay Company. Named one of the most creative people in business in 2010, Brooks is responsible for revitalizing the face of The Bay brand and has been praised for being smart, fearless and a trendsetter.
Louise Arbour is the former United Nations high commissioner for human rights, a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and currently serves as the president and CEO of the International Crisis Group. In her career she has focused on human rights and gender issues making her one of Canada's most influential public figures.
Laura Formusa is the president and CEO of Hydro One Inc., a leading electricity provider in Ontario. Formusa is an advocate for diversity and removing barriers for women and visible minorities in the workforce. She was also named one of Canada's most powerful women in 2010.
Former Governor General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean current serves as a special envoy for Haiti for the United Nations' Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Jean is known to be one of the few Governor Generals with political power and is the founder of the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, supporting youths and creative art in Canada.
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and author of international bestsellers, No Logo and The Shock Doctrine. One of Canada's most influential social activists, she is known for her political analysis and criticism through her writing on corporate globalization.
Karen Kain is Canada's Prima Ballerina. As the Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Canada, she's been a dominant player in the fight to save arts and culture programs in cities across Canada. She joined the National Ballet of Canada as a dancer in 1969 and retired from professional dancing in 1997. She's also an Officer of the Order of Canada.
As head of English Language Services at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Kirstine Stewart has been instrumental in developing some of the national public broadcaster's most popular and successful programs, including Being Erica, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Dragon's Den and The Tudors. Prior to working at the CBC, she worked as the head of programming for 13 Alliance Atlantis cable channels.
The sole woman on the hit television show Dragon's Den, Dickinson knows a thing or two about breaking through the glass ceiling. As one of Canada's most renowned independent marketing communications entrepreneurs, she's been recognized with dozens of honours and awards. Today, she's the sole owner of Venture Communications (she took over the company in 1998 after becoming partner in 1988).
As founder and chief executive of Canada's largest book retailer, Indigo Books and Music, Inc., Heather Reisman has redefined what buying a book means to Canadians. In 2010, Reisman started an online petition to save an Iranian woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, from the death penalty by stoning. Her petition generated support from people and human rights organizations worldwide. Full disclosure: Reisman is Huffington Post Canada's Editor-At-Large.
Dr. Samantha Nutt is a co-founder and Executive Director of War Child Canada, and is one of Canada's most prominent anti-war activists. Nutt also works at Women's College Hospital in Toronto and is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. She has also been appointed to the Order of Ontario, the province's highest honour.
Elizabeth May has literally made history: In the 2011 federal election she became the first elected Green Party Member to Parliament. As leader of the party, she has also been instrumental in advocating for environmental sustainability and eco-friendly policies by government. May's permanent residence is in Sidney, British Columbia, but she was raised in Margaree Harbour, Cape Breton Island.
Michèle Thibodeau-DeGuire is president and executive director of Centraide of Greater Montreal and has been instrumental in combating poverty and improving the living conditions for thousands of Montreal residents since 1991. For her efforts, Thibodeau-DeGuire has received many awards and distinctions, most notably she's a member of the Order of Canada and is a knight of the National Order of Québec. She was one of the first women engineers to graduate from École Polytechnique in Montreal, and was a practicing structural engineer for more than 20 years.
In middle-management levels, which includes managers and directors, men were still 1.5 times more likely to have these positions.
“Between 1987 and 2009, the proportion of women in middle management rose by about 4 per cent. At that rate, it will take approximately 151 years before the proportion of men and women at the management level is equal,” Golden says.
Canada On An International Scale
This news comes days after Forbes’ list of the world’s 100 most powerful women which includes influential political figures, business powerhouses and newsmakers. This year’s list was led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, and includes Lady Gaga , Hillary Clinton and Arianna Huffington president and editor-in-chief of the AOL Huffington Post Media Group.
This year not one Canadian made the cut. A Canadian woman hasn’t been on the list since 2005, when Louise Frechétte, former deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, was given the nod.
Canada’s absence on the list is particularly notable to Pamela Jeffery. She’s the founder of the Women’s Executive Network in Canada, an organization that also creates a top 100 list every year, but which focuses solely on powerful Canadian women.
“I was stunned, surprised and disappointed,” she told HuffPost Canada. “How did they put the list together? Why is their largest trading partner not on the list?” she says.
Forbes has a distinct method to create the list based on dollars, prominence in the media and power base points.
The Huffington Post Canada contacted Forbes to comment on the absence of Canadians in its list, but had not received a response at the time of publishing.
Lagging In Leadership
The lack of powerful female Canadian leaders and the absence on international lists is not surprising to Tracey Rossignol, an advisory board member of the Women in Leadership Foundation , a national, non-profit organization in Vancouver B.C dedicated to advancing women in leadership.
“I doubt that most women in Canada would be surprised by the list. There are few Canadians, male or female, on the world’s most powerful lists,” she told The Huffington Post Canada.
Rossignol says that innovation is the key, and Canada simply lags behind other countries that nurture and create leadership opportunities for women.
Canada is definitely behind. About 82 per cent of Canadian public and private sector organizations that have attempted to achieve diverse workforces do not have strategies in place for women to develop leadership roles, according to the Women’s Leadership Development Survey conducted by Mercer in March 2011.
But there are lists in Canada like the WXN top 100 list and PROFIT Magazine's list of top women entrepreneurs. Sammie Kennedy, the CEO and creator of Booty Camp Fitness Inc. was ranked No. 37 in PROFIT's list in 2010.
The Need For Role Models
For Kennedy, the PROFIT list ranking raised her confidence and helped her set business goals for the future, while also giving her company a credible spot in the fitness market.
“In the case of women seeking to start up a business or in the beginning stages of entrepreneurship, it's very important to have strong role models,” Kennedy says.
Alison M. Konrad, a professor of organizational behaviour at the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University in London, Ont., agrees.
“It’s great to have women who are stellar talk about how they also have children and successful marriages, yes you can have a rich life and be successful in your business career,” she says.
Konrad says the visibility is there when younger generations listen to female leaders speak.
“Students get inspired. They come back re-motivated and empowered to really take the steps forward,” she says.