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Carleton Study Reveals Uneven Progress of Female Leaders in Canada

Women in Politics and Public Leadership

Carleton University’s Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership released a comprehensive benchmarking study today that outlines the uneven progress of female leaders in Canada and the challenges to achieving parity in the private, public and non-profit sectors.

The report, compiled in collaboration with Deloitte Canada and written by Carleton professors Pauline Rankin and Jennifer Stewart, shows that women held only 29 per cent of senior management positions in Canada in 2011, although they constituted 47 per cent of the workforce, just a six per cent increase since 1987. And there is significant variation across industries, with energy, retail and wholesale, and manufacturing well below average levels.

If the rate of change remained constant, just 37 per cent of senior management positions will be held by women in 2035.

The report builds on research that has noted women’s under-representation in top leadership positions in single sectors by offering a broad snapshot that reveals persistent patterns and areas where strategies to address the gender gap have stalled.

"The fact is that few organizations actually implement a coherent action plan to address the lack of women leaders," said Clare Beckton, executive director of the Carleton centre. "And there is a real chance of losing ground in some areas if this issue is not tackled in a comprehensive manner."

“Women make significant contributions in the workplace, possessing valuable skills required for leadership positions,” said Jane Allen, partner and chief diversity officer, Deloitte Canada. “While it is encouraging that women continue to experience modest gains in terms of moving up the corporate ladder, we can no longer afford this slow growth. Organizations need to embrace women’s leadership in order to succeed in the years ahead.”

The report reveals that women are not making consistent, steady gains toward full leadership equality, but instead experience fluctuations and plateaus over time. They do better in the public and non-profit sectors than they do in private industry.

In the private sector, women held only 26 per cent of senior management positions in 2011. They held 43 per cent of senior management positions in public administration, up from 35 per cent in 1987. A third of judges are female. Women hold 40 per cent of CEO positions in the non-profit and charitable sector.

Among other findings:

  • Women are under-represented in senior posts even in sectors where they constitute a significant percentage of middle managers and have the best educational credentials.
  • Definitions of good leadership have changed but that hasn’t resulted in significant changes to the expectations women leaders face.
  • Access of minority women to leadership positions requires special attention.
  • There are major data gaps on women leaders in some areas.
  • There are emerging generational gaps in ideas about work and leadership that need to be addressed.

Recommendations include supporting the shared responsibility of women and men for all aspects of family-related care duties as sector-wide initiatives are implemented to address gaps of women in the senior ranks.

The full report is available.

Carleton’s centre released a report last month that looked specifically at women in the mining industry. It found that despite the looming labour shortage and an increasing number of female university graduates in engineering and technology-related programs, women remain under-represented in all of the industry’s employment opportunities, from entrance positions to leadership posts.

About Carleton’s Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership:
The centre promotes equitable representation of women in democratic institutions at all levels of government and in all positions of leadership within the public, private and non-profit sectors. This non-partisan centre works to strengthen public leadership by providing outstanding education, training, dialogue and research. The centre works with a wide range of partners to enhance women’s influence and leadership in public life, in Canada and internationally.

About Deloitte Canada:
Deloitte
, one of Canada’s leading professional services firms, provides audit, tax, consulting, enterprise risk and financial advisory services through more than 8,000 people in 56 offices. The firm is dedicated to helping its clients and its people excel.  Deloitte is the Canadian member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, one of the world’s leading professional services organizations. Deloitte has 150,000 people in 140 countries that serve many of the world’s largest companies, as well as large national enterprises, public institutions and successful fast-growing global growth companies.

About the Authors:
Pauline Rankin is associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Carleton University and is appointed to the School of Canadian Studies. Her research focuses on several aspects of gender and politics, including the relationship between women’s movements and the state, state feminism and gender mainstreaming.

Jennifer Stewart is associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration at Carleton. Her research focuses on the determinants of health for women and children.

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Contacts

Name:
Caitlin Stidwill
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Deloitte
Job Title:
Media Relations Manager
Phone:
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Name:
Steven Reid
Company:
Carleton University
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Media Relations Officer
Phone:
(613) 520-2600, ext. 8718/(613) 240-3305
Email
Steven_Reid3@Carleton.ca