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Top 40 under 40 - Why 85% male and 15 % female?
Monday, May 09, 2005

According to the 2001 Canada census, the population of Canada was: 30,007,095.

A more detailed breakdown:

Males3,983,1409,061,0551,662,655 14,706,850

Male median: 36.8 years
Female median: 38.4 years

There shouldn't be much difference in the population distribution from 2001 to 2005. Except, that there are more people now - Give or take a million or so.

This morning I saw an article titled "Top 40 Under 40." It was published in one of the national news papers in Canada. The article came to my attention from a University's homepage, as universities are always the first to mention when one their graduates earns a public award of some kind.

In this year's awards, the University press claims there are 6 Waterloo grads with the honour. That's not surprising, given that the University of Waterloo is one of the best institutions in the country when it comes to Mathematics and Computer Science (bias aside). What did surprise me when reading the article was the distribution of names in the list: there are more male names than female names. In fact there are 36 males (2 males got the award as one) and 5 females. The award should be more accurately named "Top 41...".

I have one question: why are there so many more males than women in the "Top 40 under 40"?

Given the statistics from the 2001 census above, you'd expect around 20 males and 20 females in the list of 41. And not the observed 36 to 5 male to female ratio.

How are these selections being made by the judges? Shouldn't the recipients of the awards be more representative of the population in general? How is it that there is such a big gap of women in leadership, according to these silly awards?

Let me speculate a little:
  1. We could argue that there are more men in leaderships roles than women. Why is this the case? That should be a problem in itself
  2. Another factor to take into account is that women under 40 are sometimes raising a family and some decide to stay home instead of working their way up the corporate ladder - For some reason, men are more inclined to work rather than stay home to raise a family - I think raising a family is harder work
  3. In order to qualify for the price, one must be nominated - Perhaps more men nominated more men than women. Again, why?
  4. There are more men under 40 in the work force - Perhaps, but I really doubt the numbers are so disproportioned
I can only speculate and I can't really say for sure why there is such discrepancy in the Top 40 under 40, without a proper socio-economical study of the general population in Canada and award recipients (I.e. education level, familial status, etc.)

One thing we do know, however, that the number of women in the profesionally active in the sciences is decreasing. Is this the reason for having less women in leadership in Canada? Not enough women in the sciences?

As per these awards, I don't know if there is any discrimination against women in the judging. There probably isn't any discrimination. The only way to know would be to see the original list of nominees and the results. It's unlikely to get this from the judges, but one can wonder, though.

Awarding the "Top 40 under 40" is hardly news worthy unless you're the one receiving the award. The only reason the article caught my attention, like I said, was due to the inacurate representation of the general Canadian population in the list of award winners.

Given that we are being so sensitized towards social equalities of every kind, I was expecting to see a relatively equal amount of women and men in the top 40 under 40: Did the judges think of my sensitivity? Did anyone else notice? Does anyone care? Does it even matter who gets these corporate sponsored awards?

You could ask the judges personally if you like:
    For further information about Canada's Top 40 Under 40 (TM) program, please contact:

    Meegan Wilush or Michelle Jursa
    Program Managers

    c/o The Caldwell Partners
    165 Avenue Road, 5th Floor
    Toronto, Ontario M5R 3S4

    Toll Free: 1-800-688-5540
    Toronto: 416-920-7702

Note that the judges are all volunteers and, ironically, mostly males - Perhaps more diversity in the judging panel would bring more diversity in the winners, I wonder.

BTW, I'm way too lazy (or don't have enough incentive) to check all the other years' winners and make a more complete comparison. If you are inclined, complete the summary and send it to me to add to this page - Also, if you ask the corporation hosting the event and you get a response, let me know.

One final thought: If I seem overly sensitive about any type of discrimination, I guess the social awareness programs have worked - However, personally I think meritocracies are more effective when awarding any type of price for any type of skill. I.e. "There is, in fact, an I in wInner." So, the list still stands and "Top 40 Under 40" still lives on, with 36 males and 5 females.

Disclaimer: I'm only asking the question why the list is not representative of the general population in Canada. I'm not implying there was any discrimination against either gender. Also, the award is sponsored by a corporation, so they do as they please.

10:07 PM | 3 comment(s) |


Firstly: I think you are jumping the gun a bit. I think over the years the makeup will vary quite considerably. Simple answer at the moment is that there may be a lot more men in the upper ranks (for whatever reason) than women..

Am I to assume that you suggesting that quotas should be used in deciding the award?
That is, as far as I can see, the only way to ensure a perfect 20/20 split? It would perhaps be an ok split, if the awards were simply divided down the middle: but that does change the playing field, and may piss off women who are considered #1 out of everyone and would like the opportunity to beat the boys at the leadership game.

Can I ask: would you be up in arms if there were 35 women versus 5 men? (Or proclaiming that as a triumph of "equality"?) Or is this just a particular argument you like? ;) Reason I ask is that over the years there is generally a swing from one gender dominating over the other in pretty much everything, academic results are a prime example: 20 years ago versus current programmes are usually completely reversed (i.e. trying to get girls going well academically in one generation, versus trying to make up for boys not achieving the next). Drop out rates for boys versus girls. Smoking being a problem in males, now a problem in females. Not enough male teachers whereas women used to leave after they were married leaving mostly men as senior teachers. Examination of the situation at any given moment will rarely result in an equal split, and often the results are out of date enough to render them useless in deciding whether to switch emphasis.

Some facts that are needed about the contest before any real comment:
* How many women were considered in the award
* How many men were considered in the award
* What was the criteria for selection
* Are successful men more likely to nominate themselves versus successful women (if you can self nominate)
* Are successful men's colleges more likely to nominate them versus successful women's colleges? (in the case of no self nomination)
* Were there general differences in the way the achievements of each sex were presented (perhaps men like to bullsh*t more, or perhaps women are too modest).

Now maybe the awards are a big "old boy's club" type affair, or perhaps due to the inertia of male gender domination amongst the top ranks has not been overcome yet. This could be because of a number of reasons: discrimination is certainly one possibility, the lack of desire to achieve to the same level by women (again: this would be something that may have "intertia", or just be due to society driven expectations, or that women aren't as back stabbing or scheming?), the child/family type concerns (I know of many successful women who chose not to pursue the workforce after childbirth, and that generally means around 25-35 giving up the job at least temporarily to have a child).

I for one think that there could be some positive impact on the ratio if paternity was given a similar legal (work leave entitlements wise) status as maternity. Currently in the world there is not the same legal requirement to give equal leave entitlements to fathers as mothers, meaning that if the woman wishes to pursue the career and the husband do the baby minding: there is a direct economic hit versus doing things the other way round (which I think would be best fixed to give both options..) Perhaps if there was a certain amount of "parent leave time" allowed per baby (decreasing per number of babies perhaps) per couple, and it could be taken by either couple and the government or tax office etc kept track of it. Ask yourself why would men be the ones more likely to be working: because economically it makes sense for maternity leave to be used (so still earning money for time away from the office) and the man to keep working as per normal, perhaps taking some annual leave if available. Also: the traditional view is that males are the bread winners, and that myth/opinion/current situation (take your pick) is perhaps still the one that society pushes.

Perhaps a better way of thinking of the award might be "top 40 under 40 in the present socio-economic-gender ratio in leadership roles award". :o)

Or perhaps polarising the issue is a bad idea, we could look at the number of rural achievers, the number of gay/straight ratio, the ethnic background, the religious versus non religious, the rich background versus poor, smokers vs non smokers, the dark haired versus light haired, freckled and unfreckled and I'm sure we'd find some irregularities too.
By Anonymous Nathan, at 5:28 AM

Nathan, your comment is exactly what I was looking for.

I don't think a 20/20 split would be a good idea if the goal were filling a quota of an even male/female ratio. Imagine the Olympics (TM) awarding medals using all sorts of different criteria: tall people vs. short people; blonds vs. black haired people, etc. It sounds ridiculous :)

And you are right, while writing the entry I kept thinking about all the "other" minorities and how well they are represented, but that is non-sense. Our society shouldn?t work that way. We should be blind to color, race, gender, religion, etc., etc.

I do agree with you, perhaps the "Top 40 under 40" is the current socio-economic make up of the working force in Canada - To my relief, I did say so in the entry.

I?m no active crusader for equality that is not based on merit, but it did strike me as odd to see mostly males in the list. And thinking rationally and looking at the demographical make of the country, it does seem tilted to the other side.

My pseudo-analysis was nothing more than curiosity and trying to understand the world around me by questioning what is being fed to me via the media.

BTW, in Canada we do have an equal right to paternity leave and maternity leave: the father or the mother can take up to 12 months of leave - it could also be split up with 6 months each - I only took 2 weeks, and they were actually vacation days. That's of course, when I used to work full time - As a contractor you can take a much time as you'd like ;)

I do however, think we can still comment even if we don?t know everything about the choosing criteria: once it is the public domain, we can say/ask anything we want.

Talking about lack of women in other fields: Game over for women programmers
By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:36 AM

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