Flip through the pages of the Financial Post and there is very good chance that you’ll see an appointment notice for woman into senior executive position that will cite her place on Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100. Nine years in, the national awards program has recognized more than 500 women across Canada with the Top 100 Award and inducted 73 women into Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Hall of Fame. This year, an audience of more than 1,100 took part in celebrating Canada’s top women leaders/achievers in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.
“The award has become real indicator of performance with respect to leadership,” says Pamela Jeffery, founder of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100.
“It has meant that women who are competing for those top jobs are able to demonstrate they have been recognized externally for their leadership ability. And for corporations that have Top 100 winners on their executive teams, it says to other women in the organization that it is place where female talent and leadership is valued.”
Ms. Jeffery founded Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 program back in 2003 as natural extension of creating the Women’s Executive Network (WXN), which she launched in late 1997 to help women advance into senior executive roles in the workplace.
“Through WXN we were hearing from group of outstanding female leaders who we were inviting to speak at our speakers’ series. At the time, I thought they are coming in and speaking to our members but they sure would benefit from national audience and the next generation of young women would benefit from knowing who these women are, what they are doing and what they’ve accomplished,” says Ms. Jeffery.
“Back in 2003, I thought it was about time that the spotlight turned to female leadership since the existing awards programs seemed to focus on men.”
And so, with those three clear objectives in mind — to create national forum for women in leadership, to give the next generation of Canadian women role models and to give women leaders the opportunity to be celebrated — Ms. Jeffery launched Canada’s Most Powerful Women Top 100 awards.
In 2011, the goals are the same but the awards and the winners reflect some important changes to the business landscape. In fact, if you looked at the list of winners in 2003, you would see many recipients were on the executive teams of the big banks and in senior government.
“That continues to be true but what has changed is the growing number of women in C-suite roles as opposed to executive team roles in large organizations,” says Ms. Jeffery. “Now we have women in CEO, CFO and COO positions in much larger numbers than we had back in 2003.”
As well, in those early years, there were five awards categories only. Over the past nine years as the program has expanded and evolved to become leader itself, it now features nine categories: arts & communications, champions, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, future leaders, professionals, public sector leaders, trailblazers & trendsetters and, for the first time this year, corporate directors.
“That speaks to the growing number of women who are sitting on corporate boards,” says Ms. Jeffery.
“And that’s good news because that really is the top job. The board provides the oversight. It has fiduciary responsibilities for the corporation. The CEO reports to the board on business strategy. It really has been role where men have dominated. According to the Canadian Board Diversity Council annual report card women hold 15% of board seats but we are hoping that is going to grow in the 2012 annual report card.”
In all categories, nominee submissions are presented to 21-person independent advisory board of senior leaders, men and women, from different industries across Canada.
“It is merit-driven, rigorous process,” says Ms. Jeffery. “The information we request from nominees is essentially set of metrics around financial performance of the organization, management and leadership record — what have you done and how have you done it?
“There is also community service component in each of the nine categories. I’m believer that if you are going to be true leader you must lead within your organization but you also must lead within your community.”
The plan is to continue to grow the program and recognize women in leadership roles in all sectors of the economy both here in Canada and abroad.
“WXN has already expanded into Ireland and we will be bringing the program there and hosting the first awards celebration in June 2012,” says Ms. Jeffery. “Hopefully this idea of celebrating female leadership will go around the globe.”
Read more on Financial Post - http://business.financialpost.com/2011/12/09/celebrating-female-leaders/