The power gap
Robyn Doolittle, along with half a dozen colleagues at the Globe and Mail, has spent months investigating the status of women in the workplace. Usually, such studies just look at business, but this work not only covered public companies, but also universities, cities, cultural institutions, hospitals, police services, and not-for-profit organizations. What they found, published on Saturday, was that while pay was still a problem, “what really stood out was the overall lack of women. At entity after entity, women were dramatically outnumbered. In the higher bands of salaries, it wasn’t unusual to see five times more men.”
The problem wasn’t just at the top. “We noticed they also seemed to be underrepresented among vice-presidents, directors, managers and supervisors.” Their conclusion: “The wage gap was a problem, no question. But the term seemed inadequate in describing what we were seeing: This was a power gap.”
I have followed this issue closely for twenty-five years. In the 1990s, while at the Financial Post, I launched an annual feature called “The 50 Most Powerful Women” in order to honour and highlight those who’d made it to leadership roles as well as encourage other women to strive for similar heights. Progress since has been paltry. Society now needs to take drastic steps so that women, who comprise more than half the people in most organizations, get the future they deserve.
There already exists an organization that could assume a leadership role to at least alter the lacklustre approach by public companies: the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC). The OSC is currently undergoing a review by the Government of Ontario. Among the seventy recommendations made by the task force in its report released last Friday, publicly listed companies are exhorted to increase to 50 percent the number of female directors and executive managers within five years.
But there’s no declared punishment for slackers. In 2015, the OSC urged business to increase the numbers of women on boards and then describe in annual reports how they complied or, if not, explain why. Far too many firms neither complied nor explained. No penalties ensued. Let’s attach teeth to those targets recommended by the task force. Without goals and consequences, too many accomplished women will continue to remain mired in middle management.