Only one in 10 corporate executives in Manitoba's private sector is a woman -- well below the national average, and far below rates of gender diversity in many Crown corporations.
The only female CEO in charge of a business of any size in Manitoba runs a Crown corporation. Marilyn McLaren said the private sector needs to catch up to the public field when it comes to hiring women for top jobs.
"We're not looking for handouts here. We're not looking for charity," said McLaren, who has helmed Manitoba Public Insurance for nearly nine years. "Companies perform better when they have that diversity."
There are 40-odd publicly traded companies based in Manitoba, such as Great-West Lifeco Inc., Pollard Banknote and New Flyer. Details of their corporate-governance structures are public. According to a Free Press analysis, only six per cent of the directors appointed to their corporate boards are women.
Things are not much better in the corner offices. Only 10 per cent of management jobs are held by women. That includes presidents, vice-presidents and those in the so-called C-suite -- the chief executive, finance, operating and other officers.
Nationally, the proportion of women in executive jobs is closer to 18 per cent, according to data gathered by Catalyst Canada, which advocates for gender diversity.
The issues are linked, said Anna Maria Magnifico, a member of the Manitoba chapter of the Institute of Corporate Directors. More women in senior management jobs could pave the way for more women appointed to corporate boards.
"Both issues need to be addressed, perhaps that of female CEOs in the first instance, since one observes that the route to the boardroom for men is often in their post-retirement as CEO," said Magnifico, who has experience with several corporate and non-profit boards and has spent years in Europe as Manitoba's trade representative. There, companies have made much more headway on gender diversity.
But about half of all publicly traded Manitoba companies have no women in executive management despite growing research that diversity in senior jobs boosts profitability, innovation and staff retention.
"Leaders need to... consider the evidence," said McLaren.