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Women represent 47.3 per cent of the Canadian labour force, but only 14.5 per cent of directors of Canada's biggest companies (public and private) and Crown corporations, according to the latest survey by the research and advocacy group Catalyst Inc.
In a fresh effort to expand the leadership talent pool, Vancouver-based HSBC Bank Canada has established a new scholarship program for female business undergraduates at eight universities (Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Alberta, Queen's University, the University of Toronto, the University of Western Ontario, York University and McGill University).
Over a five-year period, the bank has pledged $640,000 in scholarships for 32 female business students – four per university – based on academic achievement and leadership potential. Each student selected by her university will receive $10,000 a year for the final two years of her business degree.
"Studies have been done that show companies that embrace diversity and represent the community in which they serve are more profitable," says HSBC chief operating officer Sandra Stuart. "It is good business."
At her bank, women hold 30 per cent of seats on the board, 37.5 per cent of executive committee roles and account for 22.5 per cent of senior management.
UBC Sauder School of Business dean Daniel Muzyka, named this week as the next president and chief executive officer of the Conference Board of Canada, describes as "bumpy" the gains by women in climbing the corporate ladder.
"We don't have full development of women in leadership roles in a number of industries," he observes. The bank-supported scholarships, he adds, provide financial as well as networking, training and other support for young women, on the cusp of their business careers, to achieve their potential.
In Ms. Stuart's case, she worked part-time for HSBC while in school and was hired immediately after graduation in 1980. Since then, she has held various positions of increasing responsibility at the bank, including secondments in the United States and Brazil.
She credits her part of her success at the bank to mentors and sponsors, who provided career coaching advice or put her name forward for specific openings.
Yes You Canada
Canadian business schools are competitive by nature, jockeying for top students, faculty, market share and global reputation.
But some of the most active Canadian school recruiters are taking a new tack – collaboration – to woo MBA students from abroad.
Under the banner "Yes You Canada," a playful reference to Barack Obama's successful 2008 bid for the American presidency, seven regulars on the global MBA-fair circuit now appear together on panels to promote Canada.
"Yes You Canada happened very naturally because we were travelling together," says HEC Montreal student recruitment officer Carine Nahman. "We thought, 'Why don't we join forces and make sure we promote Canada as a destination?'"
In addition to HEC, the other participants are the Schulich School of Business (York University); Sauder School of Business (University of British Columbia); Desautels Faculty of Management (McGill University); Richard Ivey School of Business (Western University); Queen's School of Business; and Rotman School of Management (University of Toronto).
The current members are the most active international recruiters but they emphasize that Canadian business schools that show up at an international recruitment fair are welcome to join them.
At the invitation of MBA fair organizers, the Canadian schools made their first presentations last spring at recruitment sessions held in Latin America and the Middle East, sometimes to standing-room-only audiences.
As panel members, the schools deliver a consistent message about Canada's advantages as a safe, economically-strong and immigrant-friendly country that allows some foreign students to stay and work for up to three years after graduation, in contrast to the more restrictive policies elsewhere. After their joint pitch about Canada, recruiters market the specific advantages of their own schools to prospective students.
The early response from students is encouraging, says Arthur Redillas, director of admissions and recruitment for MBA and related programs at Sauder. "Candidates tell us, 'Wow, I never knew these kinds of advantages existed,' and that is exactly what we wanted to hear.
Based on last year's successful collaboration, the schools are working together to identify a common recruitment schedule for regional MBA fairs in 2012 and pursue social media strategies, such as the creation of a Facebook page, to get the word out to prospective international students.
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