A woman’s work is never done

There’s that number again, 21.7 percent. According to a study by The Council of Canadian Academies, women represent one-third of all full-time faculty, but only 21.7 percent of full professors. I say there’s that number again because if you look at other sectors such as financial services, law, and accounting the proportion of women in executive positions or partner roles is usually about 22 percent and has been for some time. On boards of directors, the share is even lower, about 11 percent, with no progress in recent years.

Whenever I see a half-page advertisement for a law firm or an accounting firm announcing new partners, I always count the women. Recently, I saw an ad with 30 percent women but that was unusual, the 22 percent figure is more typical. It’s endemically hard for women to succeed. My daughter who is a full professor in art history at McMaster told me recently that of the thirteen women in her high school graduating class who went into law, none of them is still practicing.

The plain fact is that in many organizations, despite their claims and programs to the contrary, the real reason women don’t succeed in greater numbers is sexism. The men in charge feel they have competition enough from other men, why let a bunch of women into the game and reduce their own chances for promotion?

There is only one course of action left: quotas. It is long past time for Canada to put in place by parliamentary legislation or securities regulation something to propel firms to promote women. The best place to start is with the board of directors. Norway has mandated 40 per cent women on boards as have other European nations. A European Union proposal would link board representation to hiring. Unless companies have 40 percent female directors they will be forced to hire a woman over a man when qualifications are equal with the goal of 40 percent women as senior executives. There would be plenty of time to achieve the targets – everything has to happen by 2020 – but meanwhile the efforts leading to that end must be transparent.

For years men have claimed that the rising numbers of women getting ahead in organizations will eventually change the balance. Ten years have passed since I first heard that strategy and nothing has happened. We need to move now to something more coercive. Sexism in the office must end. It’s time for talented women to replace testosterone at the top. To do so, nothing less than mandated fairness is needed.

1 Response

  1. David Waite says:

    Continuing on with these numbers Rod, from another oft-neglected sector (admittedly a non sequitur) – but a recent report from Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank finds that fully 28% of those in line possess university degrees…

    I wonder on which gender it is that hunger has the larger grip?

    Haven’t previous governments at all three levels proudly tooted (touted?) that they would put an end to food banks; i.e., a full 100% ‘quota’?

    Perhaps a good place to start.

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