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Dawn Calleja, editor of ROB magazine.Steph Martyniuk/The Globe and Mail

It’s been four years since we launched Women Lead Here, a benchmark that measures progress on gender parity among Canada’s largest publicly traded companies. It’s heartening to see 90 companies on this year’s list with an average of 46% of executive roles occupied by women. They deserve huge credit for doing the hard work required to walk the walk on an issue with huge economic implications.

I’m sure you can sense a “but” coming. So here goes: At the same time, it’s crushing to learn that nearly 22% of our largest publicly traded companies have zero women in the executive ranks—down by seven points from 2020, but still discouragingly high. And just 6.6% of that overall cohort have a woman at the top of the pyramid. Among Women Lead Here honourees, it should be noted, that figure stands at 20%.

In years past, we’ve built the Women Lead Here package around a profile on one of these chief execs—Lucara Diamond’s Eira Thomas in 2020, then Rania Llewellyn of Laurentian Bank, followed by Thunderbird Entertainment honcho Jennifer Twiner McCarron. But this year, we decided it was time for something different. Because the stark reality is that at this rate, we won’t achieve gender parity in the corner office until the year 2066.

So, starting on page 24, Deborah Aarts—who helped create the Women Lead Here benchmark—issues a cri de coeur to corporate Canada: You’re not moving fast enough. And she offers actionable advice on how to ensure there are women on the way up throughout your organization. That’s key. The most recent Report Card on Gender Diversity and Leadership issued by the Prosperity Project—so named to highlight the economic importance of gender equality—has revealed that the number of women in the pipeline to senior management nosedived over the past year, dropping from 54.8% to 42.9%.

We hope our Women Lead Here package acts as a guide to reversing that tide.

Given all this, you might find it incongruous to find a man on the cover of this issue. Let me explain.

Five years ago, we wouldn’t have hesitated to take the opportunity to put a woman on this month’s cover. But we’ve come a long way since then. In the past three years (two of those under the leadership of my predecessor, James Cowan), fully half of our covers have featured women. In addition to the Women Lead Here honourees I’ve already mentioned, they include our 2022 CEO of the Year, University Pension Plan’s Barbara Zvan; AJ Fernandez Rivera, a trans woman blazing a trail in tech; and Jennifer Wong, who now heads our top-ranked Women Lead Here company, Aritzia.

On very rare occasions, though, a photographer delivers such stunning images that you are powerless to resist them. Such was the case with Dina Litovsky’s shoot of Richard Baker. Coupled with Jason Kirby’s engaging tale of how the 39th governor of Hudson’s Bay Co. is transforming the centuries-old icon into something Canadians will barely recognize (check out “It’s the end of the Bay as we know it” on page 40), it was cover gold.

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