Business

Not the sort of women, it seems, Earle McLaughlin was looking for

ELEANOR WARD October 4 1976
Business

Not the sort of women, it seems, Earle McLaughlin was looking for

ELEANOR WARD October 4 1976

Not the sort of women, it seems, Earle McLaughlin was looking for

Business

Laura Sabia, former chairman of the Ontario Advisory Council on the Status of Women, said she’d like to punch Earle McLaughlin in the nose. And, for good measure, she added, “kick him in the ass.” All on a national radio program. And across Canada women were being urged to close out any and all dealings with the Royal Bank, whose president and chairman of the board is the very same Earle McLaughlin. If Sabia or some other woman does punch him in the nose, it will be because he invited it with the statement that, after a countrywide search, it was discovered there was not one Canadian woman qualified to sit on the 48-member board of the Royal (not even, it seems, the sweet and simpering “Mary” who was the focus of the bank’s ad campaigns a while back). Two weeks after McLaughlin’s pronouncement, Robert Macintosh, executive vice-president of the Bank of Nova Scotia, injected himself and his bank into the furor, admitting that he too had failed in a talent hunt for a female director. He offered that one of the reasons was a Bank Act stipulation that directors must own 2,500 shares of the bank’s stock. (While that is a salient argument, it is one that banks have historically found easy to overcome when it suited their interests.)

There aren’t many other requisites: bank directors are not generally appointed for financial or managerial skills, but because, by and large, they have enough contacts and alliances in the business world to serve the bank’s advantage. And that, in the case of most Canadian women, is far more obviously the rub. If the previously mentioned skills were required, McLaughlin, Macintosh et al would not have to look far, or wring hands in failure. Women are moving into finance in droves, especially to the very guts of finance, the investment industry.

Although for years there has been a sprinkling of women in the investment field (Finance Minister Donald Macdonald’s wife, Ruth, for example, was once a bond trader), over the past five years their numbers have increased dramatically. In 1971, there were no women graduates of the MBA program at London’s University of Western Ontario. Last year, there were 25. Terry Quinn, an underwriter with the Toronto brokerage house of Pitfield MacKay Ross & Company Limited, is one of them. She says, “The women in my class had more job opportunities than they knew what to do with.” Also contributing to growing numbers are orders from American head offices to hire more

women. Some of them—for example, Marion Van Dyke, the manager of the Bell Canada Pension Fund, Helen Boschen, manager of research at Canada Trust, and Sandra Macdonald, the head trader of Sun Life Investments—are nowin top jobs. “It’s only insecure men who are threatened by a woman,” says Boschen, “and they’re threatened by everyone.” There’s a commitment and enthusiasm among these women that’s as strong as old-time religion. Mary MacDonald is 75 and still working. She began 27 years ago selling war bonds in the General Hospital in Vancouver. She outsold everyone and then persuaded Frank Hall of Hall Securities to

hire her. Now she’s with Midland-Doherty Limited in Vancouver as a trader.

“There isn’t much about this business that I don’t know,” says Barbara McDougall, who at 38 is the manager of the $40-million portfolio at the North West Trust Company in Edmonton, the business reporter on the local TV station CITV and a founding president of the recently formed Alberta Society of Financial Analysts. Her first job after graduating from the University of Toronto was in the economics department of the Canadian Bank of Commerce. She also tried market research and business writing before settling down for 10 years as senior research analyst for the Vancouver brokerage house of Odium, Brown and T.B. Read Ltd. By the time she left she was a shareholder and had been there longer than any other senior employee.

Bernice Bruce works for Midland-Doherty, one of the country’s largest retail brokerage houses, in Toronto. She started playing the stock market while her four daughters were growing up and was surprised one day in 1969 when her broker mentioned that he knew a woman taking the Canadian Investment Securities Course. Bruce took it, graduated, and when she confronted T. A. Richardson saying, “I want to be a stockbroker,” they hired her. Four years later, she was wooed to Midland-Doherty to be their first female stockbroker. She says that starting out older than most stockbrokers was an advantage since she had a lot of contacts and knew people with money to invest. She thinks women’s success in real estate had a great impact in helping women to move into other business careers.

In the main office of Brown Baldwin Nisker Limited in Toronto, the ticker tape monitor continuously prints its spaghettilong messages; grey-suited men sit, legs crossed, chin on hand, leaning on their elbows, concentrating on the changing numbers. Off this room, in a small office sits Maggie Ellis, a block trader. A telephone linking her to floor traders and clients jangles on one side of her while, on the other, she scans a CANDAT monitor that can tune in the stock exchanges of Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and New York. Her 30 to 40 accounts can generate 100 phone calls a day. “It’s an advantage being a woman,” says Ellis. “Unlike the account side, women are still rare on the brokerage side although that’s changing. In the last four to five years hiring a woman has become like hiring a black. Politically it’s the right thing to do.” ELEANOR WARD

ELEANOR WARD