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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The mobility of top business executives in Canada Daly, William George


The purpose of this thesis was to investigate the geographical and occupational origins, the educational backgrounds and the career patterns of the leading executives in Canadian corporations. This information should be of interest to firms concerned with executive selection and training. Since both the quality and quantity of managers affect the performance of the Canadian economy, the government should encourage their development. Through well-known directories, a list of 332 large firms and their top executives was compiled. A twenty-three item questionnaire was mailed to the three most senior officers in each firm. The response rate of 49.6% compared favorably with other mobility studies. After the coding and processing of the returns, computer printouts were analyzed and compared with census statistics and other mobility studies to identify the significant items. This research used the concept of proportional representation to measure movement into executives ranks. A ratio was calculated between the percentage of the respondents with a particular attribute, such as birthplace, education or father's occupation, and the proportion with the same attribute in the male work force. The backgrounds of Canada's leading executives were not proportional to the general population. Urban centers, United States and the western provinces contributed more than their percentages in the Canadian population. Quebec was under-represented, even in its own province. Probably the most significant factor distinguishing the respondents from the general population was the educational level attained by the executives. The proportion with university degrees was eleven times the percentage of the male labour force in Canada. At the other end of the scale, it had more than twelve times more men who had not completed high school than the respondents. While the advantage of a university degree seemed greater in Canada, the emphasis on high education was common to all mobility studies. It was more evident among the younger executives and the more recent studies. This study also indicated a growing emphasis on post graduate studies in business. Other studies suggested two possible reasons for the under-representation of French Canadians at executive ranks: lower educational achievement and less emphasis on business and engineering courses in French language universities. Francophones with such training are now being offered higher starting salaries and prospects of faster progress into management. Comparisons of the occupational origins of the executives with those of the labour force suggested that mobility into executive ranks was less open than in United States. Representation ratios of 8.5 for the managerial group and 4.5 for professional men were higher than in any recent mobility study of American leaders. Because immigrants represent a large proportion of the Canadian executives and their forefathers, another analysis was made which was independent of national boundaries. By comparing the occupation of the executives' fathers with those of the grandfathers, the ratios of occupational stability were calculated. This ratio for the major executives in Canada was also higher than for American business leaders. Despite the tendency to recruit executives from families already in the managerial or professional ranks, the responses indicated less influence from relatives and friends than in comparable American studies. Questions about changes in mobility into executive rank and career development require additional research. Grants for business studies in Canada would develop managerial talent and preserve Canadian identity better than grants to foreign corporations to develop resources or build industrial plants.

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