Strategies for Elevating Women to Prominent Positions in Canadian Corporations

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Although progress has been gradual, several female business leaders assert that Canada is advancing in critical areas. The representation of women in executive roles in Canada has been steadily increasing since 2016, albeit at a modest pace. In 2020, women occupied nearly a third, or 31.4%, of officer positions, compared to 29% four years earlier, according to the most recent data from Statistics Canada. Despite this progress, the majority of boards across Canada remain predominantly male-dominated, with only the education sector achieving gender parity on its boards. However, beyond these statistics, some female business leaders highlight Canada’s ongoing advancements, particularly in attitudes and opportunities.

“At the board level there’s been quite a lot of progress,” said Carol Hansell, a senior partner at Hansell LLP. “The attitude towards women on boards has changed radically over the past 10 years.”

“Originally when the push came to have more women on boards, there was skepticism and, I would say, reluctance,” she added. “There wasn’t a strong sense of why this was necessary — is it a social good or is it actually good for business?”

Hansell now asserts that there is broad consensus that ensuring the presence of the most skilled individuals on a board entails recognizing and including half of the population. “It’s a conversation that’s no longer necessary,” she remarked.

According to data compiled by Hansell’s company, there is evidence of advancement for women. Nearly 28% of board seats in 2023 were occupied by females at TSX-listed companies that disclosed their diversity statistics to comply with the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA), marking an increase from 21.6% in 2020.

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