Women's careers still limited by the 'glass ceiling,' top executives say
Published Wednesday, December 4, 2013 10:23AM EST
Several of the country's most powerful women in Canada are meeting tonight to discuss the "glass ceiling," a factor many top female industry leaders say is still limiting career advancement.
Rosemary McCarney, president and CEO of Plan International Canada, is one of the women singled out for the Women's Executive Network's list of the country's 100 most powerful women in 2013.
The list recognizes and awards women from a range of fields including business, the sciences, the public sector, sports and the arts.
This year's list includes Sleep Country Canada President Christine Magee, Chairman and CEO of Women's Tennis Association Stacey Allaster, as well as CTV's Sandie Rinaldo, Marilyn Denis and Michelle Dube.
Many of the award winners will be attending the Women's Executive Network's Leadership Summit in Toronto Wednesday night, to discuss the (often invisible) barriers preventing women from rising to senior positions in the workforce, commonly referred to as the "glass ceiling." Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada's first female astronaut, will be delivering the keynote address.
McCarney told CTV's Canada AM that while progress is being made, the glass ceiling for women is "absolutely still there."
"There's lots of 'first through'," she said, referencing women who are the first to break through barriers and rise to the top of their fields. "But we have to get past that 'first through.'"
McCarney, who just returned from visiting the typhoon-stricken Philippines, said workplaces have to look beyond those women who are the first to break through the ceiling. "And we also can't forget those women who are still struggling with pay-equity issues."
Women's Executive Network Founder Pamela Jeffery said a quick look at the statistics shows that progress has been "very slow."
In 2002, women held just 14 per cent of the most senior positions in companies across the country, she said. Now, 11 years later, that number has only risen to 18 per cent.
"Our mother weren't having these conversations," she said. "So things are moving forward, but they're not moving quickly enough."
Jeffery, who started her career in business, said more women need to aspire to senior leadership roles and understand that they can have a family, as well as a rewarding career.
The idea to start recognizing and awarding women leaders came to her when she was first starting out and she realized she didn't have opportunities to network with other women, Jeffery said.
"I thought wouldn't it be great if I could be part of a network of women who were corporate executives, who were entrepreneurs. And by bringing a group of women together, wouldn't it be great for all of these women to learn from each other and be part of a national community," she said.
FedEx Express Canada President Lisa Lisson said making this year's list was an "incredible honour."
Lisson said she credits many mentors she's had in her life for helping her achieve career success, and she's now excited to be able to give back to other women.
"Now I have the opportunity to help inspire and mentor and motivate, I think it's critical," she said.
Lisson said that while FedEx has many women working in senior positions, she continues to see barriers for the women she mentors and in other companies.