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After studying 60 top corporations, all claiming gender diversity as a priority, McKinsey & Co. decided to develop metrics that can be used by the broader business community to measure success in promoting women. In a report, Joanna Barsh and Lareina Yee work back from the outcomes the companies sought to present these four measures:

  • In entry-level professional positions, women should constitute at least 53 per cent of the staff or women should have the same odds of advancing to manager level as men. Thirty-one of the companies met or exceeded that cut-off.
  • Women’s chances of advancing from manager to the director and vice-president level should be 85 per cent the chance of men. Twenty companies in the sample met or exceeded that goal.
  • The executive committee should have at least 22 per cent female representation. Nineteen companies met that mark.
  • Fifty-five per cent of women vice-presidents and senior vice-presidents should be in line positions, overseeing operating divisions with profit and loss statements of their own rather than in staff positions like human resources or legal where women have often been relegated. Twenty companies achieved that outcome.

Only 12 companies met three of the metrics. In some cases, that came from drawing in a remarkably high percentage of women, well exceeding 50 per cent, probably because they offered entry-level jobs women preferred, as in health care or retail management. In the other approach, companies had what the researchers call "steady pipes": The firms take in a smaller percentage of women but keep the mix of men and women steady at higher levels in the firm, which is probably the more realistic approach for engineering and technical fields.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter