More women in top-paid executive ranks, but B.C. companies have yet to close the gender gap

Business In Vancouver


More women have joined the ranks of B.C.’s highest-paid executives, but they remain a small minority among the multimillionaires leading publicly traded companies in the province.

Nine female business leaders made Business in Vancouver’s 2018 list of the Top 100 Highest-Paid Executives in B.C. – an 80% increase over last year, and the most women to make the list in the last eight years.

“We really did not anticipate that we’d still be having this conversation,” said Jill Earthy, head of growth at Female Funders and co-chair of We for She. (Photo: Rob Kruyt)

Despite the year-over-year improvement – and a drastic improvement over the two women who made the list in 2012 – female C-suite representation has been inconsistent, and where women have ranked has fluctuated widely.

In 2014, the highest-paid female executive placed ninth; this year, the first woman to appear on the list places 45th.

“We seem to have hit something of a road block,” said Katherine Scott, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

“I think people are still running into barriers … despite a much, much greater visibility for the issue generally.”

Board diversity, gender equity and inclusive hiring policies are increasingly common topics of discussion around boardroom tables. Senior executives from Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G; NYSE:GG), Telus Corp. (TSX:T; NYSE:TU), Teck Resources Ltd. (TSX:TCK.B; NYSE:TCK), HSBC Bank Canada (TSX:HSB), Finning International Inc. (TSX:FTT) and Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers Inc. (TSX, NYSE:RBA) are members of the 30% Club, which strives to broaden the career progression pipeline for women at all levels, and encourages board chairs to appoint more women to the table.

Companies including Goldcorp and Telus have also signed the Catalyst Accord – a pledge to have women represent on average at least 30% of their boards and executive leadership teams by 2022.

This year, Goldcorp launched its diversity and inclusion strategy. Last year, Telus commissioned a report on gender pay practices. Many of the companies with B.C.’s highest-paid executives are working toward more diverse workplaces – the results are just taking time, and Scott said diversity mandates, while important, are not necessarily enough.

“I’m not so sure it’s such an issue about supply anymore; it’s really about what’s going on inside the company.”

A number of companies on BIV’s list had several executives make the top 100, but no company had two women represented.

For example, just one woman sits on the executive leadership teams of Teck Resources and Goldcorp, and both were among this year’s highest earners. The companies also had four and five male executives represented on the list, respectively.

Because the list ranks compensation, it doesn’t fully indicate the diversity of a company’s leadership team, just who the highest earners are. A deeper dive into company documents shows that, whether they made the pledge or not, some companies – and some sectors – are much closer to a 30% gender diversity target than others.

In total, five of Goldcorp’s six named executive officers are men, as are 19 of the company’s 23 senior managers. One of Teck Resources’ 11 executive officers is a woman. Eldorado Gold Corp. (TSX:ELD; NYSE:EGO) is targeting 30% to 40% female representation in senior management positions by 2022. Last year, women held four out of 14 named executive and vice-president positions, though two long-standing female executives – both recurring executives on the list – have since left the company.

Great Canadian Gaming Corp. (TSX:GC) has one female executive out of eight; two male executives made BIV’s list. When tallying all senior management positions, company documents show that just over a third of the company’s senior management positions are held by women. Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (NYSE:LGF), which holds the top three spots on this year’s list, has one woman on its 12-person board. Its five highest earners are men.

Executives from Methanex Corp. (TSX, Nasdaq:MX) hold four spots on the list, with the company’s president and CEO ranking 11th. Six of the company’s 35 executive officers are women; just one – the company’s senior vice-president of marketing and logistics – ranked on the list, at 95th.

Lululemon Athletica Inc. (Nasdaq:LULU) and Aritzia Inc. (TSX:ATZ) each had two male and one female executive make the list. Three of seven named executive officers at Lululemon are women; 47% of Aritzia’s leadership team is female.

“We’re seeing a bit of a drop in that mid-career point, and one of the things that we’ve identified is around the culture,” said Jill Earthy, head of growth at Female Funders and co-chair of We for She, which will host its fifth forum in Vancouver this November.

“We really did not anticipate that we’d still be having this conversation.”

Last year, the Minerva Foundation’s The Face of Leadership: BC Scorecard 2017 found that three out of 50 of the province’s biggest companies had female CEOs, and 28% had no women on their senior executive team.

Research by Female Funders, Hockeystick and the National Angel Capital Organization found that 14% of partners at Canadian venture capital funds are women.

The CCPA has reported that women account for 33% of senior management positions in Greater Vancouver – ahead of Calgary, tied with Montreal and behind Toronto, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Regina and Ottawa.

The data is there, said Earthy; it needs to be followed up with action.

Last year, the We for She Forum highlighted four actions that could help close B.C.’s gender gap: championing women, promoting and advocating diversity, creating positive mindsets and activating men.

“Making sure that the men have the tools, have the support and understanding what their role is in this,” said Earthy, noting that the tone gets set at the top, and leadership and culture trickle down.

“That’s where there’s a real opportunity.”

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