Liz Mulligan-


Jan Combopiano

2010 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Senior Officers and Top Earners

What U.S. accounting firms can learn from their Canadian counterparts.

March 17, 2011
by Liz Mulligan-Ferry, Rachel Soares and Jan Combopiano

The 2010 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Senior Officers and Top Earners reveals both good and bad news about the advancement of Canadian women to corporate leadership. Similar to the 2010 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors and the 2010 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Executive Officers and Top Earners, which focuses on the U.S.,women’s representation in both countries has not grown significantly in corporate boardrooms, executive office suites or the ranks of companies’ top earners in the last year.
The most encouraging finding shows that the number of FP500 public companies with 25 percent or more women senior officers increased 7.7 percentage points in the last two years. Less encouraging, however, is that the growth of women’s overall representation in the ranks of companies’ senior officers and top earners slowed to a crawl between 2008 and 2010.

“At Catalyst, we believe that what gets measured gets done,” said Deborah Gillis, senior vice president, Membership & Global Operations, Catalyst. “Canadian businesses are vastly underutilizing talented women, even though women are the engine of our economies. As organizations refuel and retool, it is in their best interest to ensure that this important segment of the employee base is developed for leadership positions. Failure to do so could mean losing opportunities for competitive advantage.”

According to the Census:

  • The percentage of women holding senior officer positions increased less than one percentage point over two years, from 16.9 percent in 2008 to 17.7 percent in 2010.
  • Women senior officers held 6.2 percent of top earner positions — up less than one percentage point from 5.6 percent in 2008.
  • In both 2008 and 2010, more than 30 percent of companies had zero women senior officers.

"Catalyst research indicates that companies with more women senior officers on average outperform those with fewer,” said Gillis. “Time is up for ‘give it time.’ Organizations must commit to accelerating the advancement of women or risk losing top talent. In light of increasingly fierce global competition, corporate Canada and the U.S. have nothing to lose and much to gain by choosing leaders from its ‘full deck’ of talent — women and men.”

Despite these bleak numbers, there is hope. Research shows that actively battling the stagnation of the last several years by advancing talented women can provide businesses with an enormous competitive advantage. Catalyst’s global study, Mentoring: Necessary But Insufficient for Advancement, demonstrates that men with mentors are promoted more and compensated at a higher rate, while women with mentors are far less likely to be promoted or paid more as a result of being mentored. Sponsors — mentors who advocate for promotions and high-profile development opportunities — could help narrow the gender-leadership gap.

About This Study

The 2010 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Senior Officers and Top Earners is a rigorous and precise count of women senior officers and top earners in 468 FP500 companies as of June 1, 2010. To ensure accuracy, Catalyst provided companies with timely opportunities to verify the accuracy of the collected data. In 2010, 84.5 percent of companies verified their data. Of the companies that did not participate in the verification process, Catalyst only published data that was either filed with the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) via the System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval (SEDAR) or that was included in the company’s most recent public annual report.

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Liz Mulligan-Ferry manages the Catalyst Censuses of women board directors and women executive officers and top earners of the Financial Post 500. She is also part of Catalyst’s Diversity & Inclusion Practices team and a member of Catalyst’s Work-Life Effectiveness Issue Specialty Team. Rachel Soares conducts research on women in leadership and the business case for diversity. She oversees the annual Catalyst Census reports of the Fortune 500 and Financial Post 500. She is also a member of Catalyst’s Work-Life Issue Specialty Team. Jan Combopiano is head of the Information Center, where she oversees library functions, including research requests from Catalyst staff, member organizations, the media and outside researchers.