The departure of Lisa LaFlamme as anchor of CTV News reeks of ageism and sexism. A senior male executive from Bell Media, owners of CTV, was heard deriding her grey hair as if that were sufficient criteria for firing her. Oh yes, there was another problem. LaFlamme and her producer fought with their superiors to be able to send journalists to international events such as Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee. Such cheek!
This abusive treatment is nothing new. As an author and journalist I have been writing about the poor treatment of women in the workplace for decades. In 2000, for example, I sought to raise the profile of successful women in business by Iaunching an annual feature called the National Post Power Fifty. During a three-month period, I conducted dozens of interviews to identify the most powerful women in Canada where power was defined as “the ability to influence people and events.” I made certain that all economic sectors and regions of the country were represented. I did a full ranking, interviewed the top twenty, and wrote the 10,000-word feature that accompanied the list. Number one on the list in that inaugural year was Suzanne Labarge, vice chair and chief risk officer at Royal Bank.
Other women have worked equally hard and long, but with less success. According to a study by Toronto law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, in 2021 women held only 23.4 percent of board seats among companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, up a mere two percentage points from the previous year. At that rate of increase, it will take another thirteen years for boards to be 50-50 female-male. Growth of female executives at TSE companies has been worse. At the executive level, women occupy only 18.2 percent of positions, up from 17 percent in 2020. According to the Osler survey, that’s hardly any increase since 2015 when it was 15 percent. Annual growth of one percentage point means that executive women and men won’t be in balance until 2053. At the very top, there are less than a dozen female CEOs among the more than 200 TSE companies.
To my mind, equally disconcerting is the fact that women on the way up who appear in newspaper appointment ads are nearly always good-looking. It’s as if male executives are willing to work with a woman as long as she’s attractive. Yet homely men make it to the top all the time. Homely women, apparently, get left behind. There’s also the issue of talent. Just as homely men make it to the top, so do mediocre men. The day when a mediocre woman is named CEO will mark tangible success in the long climb to equality.
Rod – spot on, especially as regards ‘attractive’ women in visual media. As is embarrassingly obvious in television, a male newscaster (for example) can be 100% grey (or silver), but woe betide one single strand of grey show in his co-host female colleague’s hair. Crass commercialism; keep viewers eyeballs on the screen.
My siblings and I grew up during the arrival of television. Our parents decided there wasn’t going to be one in our house, which almost 80 years later I do not for one minute regret.
Your column expertly highlights why I am not in the least interested in buying one today. Sadly, Canada’s television industry (newscasts included) seems to have aligned with the domineering influence of that of the U.S., which is entertainment first, facts to follow. May I borrow just the title of a Bob Marley song – “Stir It Up” – and thank you Rod for stirring up a sleeper topic, but I fear that the stir-stick oughtn’t be put away quite yet.