The hidden position of women at the head of companies

There are still very few women in business, even in Canada. But the presence of those who crossed the famous glass ceiling begins to be felt … and reflected. Do women make better business leaders? The second text of the three.

The representation of women in corporate governance positions in Canadian companies has improved in recent years, “but there is still a lot of progress to be made,” believes economist and certified company director Louise Chambox-Baye, who has been leading this fight for more than thirty years. Picture of the situation in some graphics.

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Few women manage Canadian companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, according to a recent report by Canadian Securities Administrators. In 2020, only 4.6% of them were headed by women. For Quebec companies, the score was only slightly better, at 6.6%. The same finding for the numerical inferiority of board chairs – it is held by a woman in 5.9% of cases in Canada and 9.8% of cases in Quebec. “Still too little!” M . NotesI Champoux-Paillé.

“On the other hand, we’re seeing more progress on boards,” he confirms. But Canada has come a long way. In 2015, only 49% of companies had at least one woman on their boards of directors. This means that more than half of the councils were composed entirely of men. Today, the situation is a little brighter. Nearly 80% of Canadian business boards have at least one woman. Quebec does better than the rest of the country in this region, already reaching that rate in 2015, which is now more than 90%.

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Overall, the position of women on boards of directors nearly doubled between 2015 and 2020, going from 11% to 20%. “But in order for the minority to have influence over the majority group in terms of decision-making, it must have 30% representation on the board of directors,” said Mr.I Champoux-Paillé.

“For me, who has been on boards for many years, I have noticed that when there is complementarity between women and men, more elements are taken into account in the decision-making process, and therefore it becomes better,” she insists.

uneven progress

Progress in terms of female representation varies with the size of the company, notes Mr.I Champoux-Paillé. “In very large companies, we have reached the famous 30% of female representation on boards – so, this is an important development. But in smaller companies, their representation is much less important,” she laments. However, the company director welcomes the fact that large companies can “set a role model” for smaller companies, which they must one day follow suit.

She insists that for things to change in the right direction, it takes “the will”. “And we are seeing that mindsets are changing, and more and more heads of large corporations are emphasizing the importance of having women in senior management positions…there are allies among men to achieve this goal of parity,” notes the person who has found that mindsets also develop in general in society. “For thirty years, we haven’t talked about it that much!”

Measures to make things happen

In Canada, in 2020, more than half (54%) of the companies studied in the Canadian Securities Officials Report adopted a policy of including women on corporate boards—and still 35% of companies did not have policies to include women. In terms of goals to be achieved in terms of par, only a quarter (26%) of companies set them out—compared to more than two-thirds who chose not to impose themselves (69%).

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However, the adoption of policies and goals tangibly enhances the inclusion of women on company boards, says Mr.I Champoux-Paillé. And what about quotas? “This will certainly make it possible to quickly reach parity or into the parity region,” she admits. But not really in Canadian culture put it in the right place. For the corporate director, on the other hand, one thing is certain: “If we want to have the next generation, it is important that we have concrete commitments from companies to encourage female representation. “

According to her, the fact that some companies still resist diversity policies based on the principle of merit no longer holds. “It keeps coming back. However, more and more women have all the talent needed to sit on boards or head companies. They have diverse skills and experience. This merit argument may have held out a few decades ago, when there was a smaller group of female candidates. But there is no A shortage of talent!”

METHODOLOGY: Data is based on the Sixth Review of Securities Regulators in Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan, and covers female representation in directors and senior management positions. This report is based on a study of a sample of 610 issuers listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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