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More needs to be done to advance gender diversity in Corporate Canada: survey

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Organizations have accelerated inclusion and Environmental, Social, Corporate (ESG) efforts, but Corporate Canada still has ways to go when it comes to advancing gender diversity at the leadership level, a new survey has found.

The second report card from The Prosperity Project said that women of colour make up just over six per cent of board, executive and senior management positions. And Black women, Indigenous women, women with disabilities and LGBTQ2S+ women each hold less than one per cent of senior leadership positions.

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While companies and organizations are moving in a positive direction, more work needs to be done, says Vanessa Lewerentz, who sits on the advisory board for the report card.

“We’re becoming more aware of our shortcomings and we all –in Corporate Canada– understand that we have a role to play to address 1/8them 3/8,” she said in an interview.

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The finance and insurance sector has the highest representation of women overall at senior levels. Forty-six per cent of women are managers on the path to senior management while about four in 10 sit on boards, are chief executives or in senior management roles.

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The report card surveyed more than 21,000 women at 82 organizations among public, private and Crown corporations. However, more than 400 of Canada’s largest companies declined to participate or did not respond to the charity’s request.

With Rania Llewellyn becoming the first woman to lead a major Canadian bank in January 2021 and Canadian National Railway Co. naming Tracy Robinson as president and CEO last month, there are signs that the C-Suite is opening up to more women.

Lewerentz said her own career trajectory allowed her to work with leaders and managers who gave her space to learn, something she said could help women to climb the corporate ladder.

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“Part of that is mentorship and sponsorship, but also being put on projects to work with other talented colleagues,” she said. “It’s not all been sunshine and roses, but it has been extremely helpful to have people around me — allies.”

Men are increasingly playing a supporting role in moving to gender parity, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because it is a smart business decision, Lewerentz said.

“Diverse representation and diverse thought accelerate business growth and innovation as well as help organizations to succeed.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2022.

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