Some Canadian companies are bucking the trend. At American Express Canada 52% of senior leaders are women, and 66% of the overall workforce is female.
“We’ve always been focused on female employees and have always understand the importance of diversity,” American Express Canada VP of HR Naomi Titleman said. “Diverse perspectives to business problems.”
The company combines formal and informal mechanisms to create a culture of equality, Titleman said. From educating leaders on some differences in how men and women communicate to employee networks such as a women’s interest network and a parent’s network, it’s about ensuring everyone has the resources they need.
“Underpinning of all these things is a culture that fosters a welcoming culture for women,” she said.
A key to bringing more women into the leadership positions is the company’s sponsorship program where mentors do more than give advice – they are advocates who will fight for their mentee’s.
Titleman said the organization has reached a point where the momentum of early programs has created a “self-fulfilling prophecy”. The company’s reputation for being a good place for women to work means more ambitious, high-potential women want to work there, ensuring it has great talent at all levels.
“The programmatic aspect is relatively simple, get a program, check off 1000 people – it’s one step. I think it’s about taking a holistic view to diversity,” Titleman said. “Creating an environment where women thrive. Some of this is through formal programs but a lot of it is embedded in an inclusive culture.”
While there have been huge improvements in how women thrive in the workplace, in the past 10 years the numbers have stalled, or even dropped. Just 23% of senior managers are women, a number that has barely moved in the past five years.