Women hold 8.5 per cent of the highest-paid positions in Canada’s top 100 listed companies, according a report by global executive search firm Rosenzweig & Company.

That’s almost double the 4.6 per cent recorded in 2006, the first year Rosenzweig studied women in executive positions, and up from 7.4 per cent in 2011.

But in real terms, it represents 45 women in top jobs such as chief executive, chief financial officer or vice-president of a company, including eight female CEOs.

Jay Rosenzweig, managing partner of Rosenzweig & Company, said Canada is approaching a “tipping point towards gender equality in business.”

'Change is in the air'

"There are several powerful forces that are creating change," he said in an interview with CBC News. "The largest one is the general change in attitudes about women in leadership roles both with men who have so-called problems with a female boss diminishing and more women are leaning in – as Sheryl Sandberg calls it – seizing opportunities and fulfilling dreams and aspirations."​

He cites the Ontario Securities Commission’s new rules ask listed companies to report how many women they have on their board of directors and in executive offices and to explain their targets for women in key roles.

But there is also a social media push for greater equality that is being noted in boardrooms, Rosenzweig said.

"Influential men are all over social media promoting social equality. It’s remarkable, it’s powerful and it’s growing all over the world. The men in corporate Canada at levels of power must be taking note of these changes in the air," he said.

"Social media is so powerful in many different ways and it’s playing an important role in this as well."

Meanwhile, new research from Simon Fraser University has shown that companies with women on the board tend to be better managed.

"You see studies out there demonstrating that the more diversity you have at the top – the better the business results. Forget the moral imperative, companies are doing better if they have diversity of thought, diversity of thinking, diversity of background around the table," Rosenzweig said.

Germany’s decision to impose a 30 per cent quota for women to sit in boardroom seats may also put pressure on companies to promote more women, he said.

Quotas don't work

Rosenzweig said he doesn’t support the use of quotas and believes companies will make incremental changes over a period of years towards more gender balance. Improved education and public awareness are helping the push toward change, he said.

The Rosenzweig report is based on management information circulars listing the occupants of executive suites at the 100 largest listed companies in Canada. All public companies must name and provide a compensation breakdown for the CEO, the CFO and at least the next three highest paid executives in the company.

The 30 per cent club, a group begun in the U.K. that champions women in senior business roles, is set to open a chapter in Canada this year.