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The glass ceiling still exists. Only 1 in 5 senior posts held by women in Canada

There may now be gender parity among Canadian premiers, but in the boardrooms of this nation it is a different story.

Only 18.1 per cent of senior positions are held by women, according to data gleaned from the Financial Post 500 list of companies and crunched by Catalyst, a non-profit aimed at expanding opportunities for women. That is a .4 per cent change since 2010.

What gives?

"It's not great," says Alex Johnston, executive director of Catalyst. "But if you look at specific examples on the list there is significant progress in some areas over a short period of time -- there is a business leader or human resources leader driving this, someone who has set goals and is getting there."

L'Oreal and Manulife Financial both have really strong gender numbers, she says. The Catalyst research can be viewed here.

And, when it comes to public sector firms, 35.9 per cent have women in senior roles, notes Catalyst. Women fare best in finance, insurance, retail and utilities.

Instead of calling out the laggard companies, Catalyst hopes their research will stimulate a discussion with business leaders to figure out where their firms are on the list and set goals for change.

"The best practice leaders will get there," Johnston says, adding that it is just smart business to have a more diversified senior team. For example, of Fortune 500 companies with more women in top roles, those firms outperform those with fewer women, Catalyst points out.

"This isn't rocket science," adds Johnston.

Tanya Talaga is the Star's Global Economics reporter. Follow her on Twitter @tanyatalaga


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The Glass Cliff: Women in Power Are Set Up to Fail

Are women set up to fail — by being appointed to positions of power only in hopeless situations?

Like when a dept. is about to go under financially and the CEO puts a woman in charge knowing she's going to fail; then he runs around saying, SEE, women are useless.

It’s called it “the glass cliff,” which they contend is an invisible form of prejudice.

Two British academics say so, and they claim to have proved it this year. In one study, they took 83 businesspeople — roughly half of them women — and described to them two companies, one that was steadily improving in profitability and another that was steadily declining. The subjects were told to pick a new financial director for the firm and were presented with three candidates: a man and a woman who were identical in experience and a lesser-qualified male.

The subjects were slightly more likely to pick a man to lead the successful firm but were far more likely to pick the woman to lead the failing one. Two other experiments with similar designs yielded the same result: When presented with men and women to lead a company going down the tubes, people pick the woman.


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