IR glass ceiling sees far fewer women making it into top jobs

Jan 23, 2017
<p>New research shows just 33 percent of IR heads are women</p>

The glass ceiling appears to be largely intact in the world of investor relations, according to new research from IR Magazine.

While the global gender split is almost equal for all professionals working in investor relations (51:49 male to female), when it comes to climbing the IR ladder, women are at a disadvantage.

Globally, just one third of IR heads are female, reveals the IR Magazine Global Investor Relations Practice Report 2016. Instead, the top jobs in the profession are dominated by men – not just globally but also across each region and cap size.

Two thirds of heads of IR are male, shows survey

The findings come at a time of increased scrutiny over diversity in top jobs and a focus on women in executive positions. Janet Drysdale, vice president of corporate development at CN and former head of IR at the Canadian railroad giant, comments that while ‘the approximate 50:50 split among all professionals in IR is certainly encouraging, unfortunately it seems IR is not performing any better than other functions when it comes to women leading the department.

‘In my experience, IR professionals are pretty collaborative by nature. By starting with that spirit of collaboration, I believe encouraging more coaching and mentoring among IR professionals could help provide some support to women striving to move up within their organization.’  

Regionally, it is Europe that sees the biggest gender gap at the top, with men taking 76 percent of positions as IR head. North America reflects the global average with 67 percent of head of IR roles going to men, despite both regions starting from a base 54:46 male to female split for all IR professionals.

Janet Drysdale
Janet Drysale, CN

While there appears to be a more even split at the top in Asia, with 47 percent of IR chief positions going to women, the data still shows that despite only 36 percent of Asian IROs being men, a majority (53 percent) of Asian heads of IR are male.

At the cap size level, women are least likely to hold an IR head position at large and mega-cap companies. ‘Despite 47 percent and 48 percent, respectively, of all IR professionals at large and mega-cap companies being female, at both these cap sizes fewer than three in 10 IR heads are women,’ write the report authors.

That isn’t to say there aren’t numerous women holding such top jobs. And indeed, many of these women are at the top of their field: Dr Elizabeth Sun, veteran head of IR at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) was named a Global Top IRO in the IR Magazine Global Top 50 2016, with TSMC taking the number one spot, as well as a raft of regional awards.

Other regular IR Magazine Award winners and women at the top of the investor relations food chain include Magdalena Moll, who headed up the multi-award-winning team at BASF for 13 years before moving to the head of IR position at OMV last year, while Drysdale led the IR team for more than three years at CN before being appointed vice president of corporate development in March 2016.

Despite these names – and many other top female IR professionals – this finding makes it clear that more needs to be done to promote diversity at the top level of investor relations.

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