Report: Data, holding leadership accountable key to bringing more women into leadership

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According to a report released by the Canada-U.S. Council for Advancement of Women, many companies across Canada and the US are lacking clear goals and accountability to foster more women leaders in businesses.

The report drew from two research studies: quantitative research encompassing the perspectives of 150 chief human resources officers (CHROs) or people in equivalent roles from small, medium, and large companies in Canada, and 250 in the US; and Accenture’s Getting to Equal 2018, a global survey of more than 22,000 working men and women with a university education in 34 countries which measured their perception of factors that contribute to the culture in which they work.

Companies must set the advancement of women as a business priority and create a comprehensive strategy to achieve it.

This is the fifth and final pillar report from the Council, which has released past reports on supporting and growing women-owned businesses, expanding the role of women in science, technology, engineering, and math, attracting women entrepreneurs, and increasing women’s access to capital. This report was led by Tina Lee, CEO of T&T Supermarkets, and Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture, North America.

The research indicated that while leaders want more women in higher ranks and say they have a commitment to the cause, they are not approaching the problem the way they would any other business priority. Basics like leadership accountability, data measurement, targets, and clear action plans are frequently not in place. Just seven of the 249 companies (2.8 percent) listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange’s main index have a woman CEO, while women currently hold just five percent of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies.

According to the survey of CHROs, only 50 percent of companies in Canada and 51 percent in the US are focused on diversifying their leadership team. That means that half of companies are not paying close attention to women’s advancement and might not consider it a goal at all. Less than half (36 percent in Canada and 40 percent in the US) of companies have a plan to advance women to senior leadership roles, and only 44 percent of companies in Canada and 41 percent in the US have a plan for hiring more women at the entry level.

The report noted five key elements of building a strategy for gender diversity, including making gender diversity a commitment that is communicated by C-Suite executives to their employee base; capturing data to measure progress; holding senior leadership accountable for progress; set targets; and using existing research to guide action plans. The reported noted that the lack of basic measurement and plans for the advancement of women to senior leadership roles indicate that companies are not holding leaders across the business accountable for ensuring progress is being made.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reacted to the report in a release. “As the final report highlights, to create real opportunities for women business leaders, we need to make gender diversity in leadership a priority,” he said. “When companies successfully promote gender diversity on their executive teams, they perform better financially, drive innovation, grow our economy, and strengthen the middle class. All of us benefit when women have the tools and resources they need to participate at the highest levels of our businesses and economy. By identifying clear goals and taking concrete action, we can eliminate the barriers that hold women back.”

Access the full report here.