Gender studies: Women missing from powerful positions on mastheads

On March 25, 2015, the Canadian Competition Bureau approved the sale of the Sun Media network, including 173 publications and digital properties, to Postmedia Network Inc., a media company that already had the largest newspaper footprint in Canada.

The data assembled about the masthead positions was gathered on April 2; the deal was closed on April 13.

The latest Labour Force survey from Statistics Canada (January 2015) pens the number of women as part of the labour force at 47%. As women are such an important part of the labour force – they act as decision makers, buyers, readers, and influencers – one would think that legislative bodies, political parties, public services, and corporations would ensure their views were reflected in their managerial decisions.

Even given advances in the number of women with higher education and increased opportunity from the middle management tier, the reality of women holding powerful roles is improving in some areas and stagnating in others.

Women in Canadian politics

In Canada, we have been seeing a resurgence of women’s presence in the political scene. After the 1993 election campaign, which saw the highest number of female candidates, it actually took some time to get women in position of real power.

Twenty years after that landmark year with the high number of female candidates, March 2013 finally became that point in time when Canada had as many female premiers (heads of a provincial state) as males. In addition, of those five Canadian provinces, four were of the strongest and largest economically speaking: Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta. At that point, female elected candidates represented 50% of the electorate.

Gender balance matters

A 2010 survey from McKinsey reports that “companies with more women in their executive committees have better financial performance” than those without.

The report claims that, for companies in the top quartile for representation by women in executive committees versus others in the same sector, the average return on equity (ROE) is up to 41% and the respective average EBIT (Earnings Before Interests and Taxes)  margin is 56% better.

Hence, working toward gender balance makes business sense.

Women in Canadian corporate boardrooms

A 2011 report from the Conference Board of Canada entitled Women in Senior Management: Where Are They? notes that the number of women in corporate boardrooms around the country has not materially changed since 1987.

As of 2009, men are two to three times more likely to hold a senior position than women (senior management roles are defined as executives above director level, excluding presidents and chief executive officers). In middle management (defined as directors and managers), men were 1.5 times more likely to hold positions.

The Conference Board then argued that organisations failing “to integrate women’s perspectives into their high-level decision making risk losing market share, competitive advantage, and profits.”

How do Canada’s newspaper organisations stack up on the gender balance?

I was curious to see the gender split on the mastheads of Canada’s newspapers. I looked at the masthead of the 25 largest newspapers across Canada.

Because a few publishers managed multiple organisations, out of 25 publications, I had 16 distinct publishers. Of those, only 19% were women.

Next, in the editor-in-chief chair, I counted 24% of women occupying this prestigious and powerful position. However, it was good to see that, in the “second-in-command” position of deputy or managing editor, I saw as many women as men.

Gender balance in senior and powerful editorial roles in news organisations is important. We need to cater to all strata of the population, half of which is women, and, for many of us, the increasing reality of a very diverse readership composition, gender being only one of those aspects.

The diversity of our readership should be represented in our justice system, our legislative system, and, of course, our own organisations. It’s just common sense; it’s actually good business sense.

Just about two years ago, Postmedia eliminated 10 publishers across the country and replaced them with three regional executives. As further re-shuffling is expected, we shall observe how all of the major positions at the new consolidated Postmedia/Sun Media will take into account the different leadership styles and perspectives women bring with them.

The author wants to thank PressReader for the generous use of a PressReader account, which made this research possible.

About Andrée Gosselin O’Meara

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