More Women Taking Leadership Roles but Pace of Growth Remains Slow: Study

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More women taking on leadership roles

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TORONTO - More women have moved into senior leadership roles during the past five years, but there needs to be more awareness around issues of representation to speed up the changes, according to a Toronto-based report.

"It's certainly progress and it's moving in the right direction, but the pace of change over a five-year period is relatively slow," said Wendy Cukier, founder and director of the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University.

A study by the institute found that female representation in senior positions at major corporations in the Toronto area increased to 32.5 per cent in 2014 from 30.6 per cent in 2009.

But women remained underrepresented overall, along with those belonging to a visible minority, with that group's representation increasing to 4.2 per cent from 3.1 per cent in the same time period.

From 2009 to 2014, representation of women increased at a rate of 6.3 per cent overall, the report said.

"In many cases it's just that some companies haven't made this a priority. They haven't thought about it or they've relied on old excuses for why their boards and executive teams look they way they do," Cukier said.

"What we need to keep moving this forward is to force attention on the issue to continue to publish results and to encourage transparency."

Some companies have done a good job in promoting qualified women, she added, and there are efforts to raise awareness about the need for diversity in management and on board of directors.

The Ontario Securities Commission, for instance, is proposing that all TSX-listed businesses be required to disclose targets for the number of women in high-ranking positions as directors and executive officers.

It also wants companies to disclose how they find candidates for those positions. It doesn't include quotas, but it is asking for a "comply or explain'' policy, which means companies will have to explain why their boards look the way they do.

According to the Ryerson study, the number of women in senior leadership positions varies by sectors.

The corporate sector continues to have the lowest proportion of women among its senior leadership, at 19. …