Most of the people who work at banks are women, but in the 25 years that Janice Fukakusa has been a banker, that hasn't been reflected in the industry's executive ranks. Today, Fukakusa, the chief administrative officer and chief financial officer at the Royal Bank of Canada, sees a shift. More women are on the executive path at her bank and others, she says, and it's only a matter of time before a majority of the industry's top posts are filled by these up-and-comers.

RBC's statistics sugeest so: In 2000, its executive group was 14 percent women. By 2009, a third of top executives at the bank were women. Ofits second tier of corporate leaders-a group of about 200 people based in Canada-women comprised 39 percent in 2009, up from 25 percent in 2000.

Fukakusa says getting more women in corner offices isn't just about promoting them, it's about helping them gain the skills that make them strong candidates for these top jobs.

"You can't just set goals or percentages. What is critical is coaching and providing opportunities to our female candidates so they are 100percent competitive," Fukakusa says.

This year the women's advocacy group Catalyst recognized her company for its commitment to gender diversity. But even more than such positive attention, Fukakusa says the business benefits help to reinforce the commitment.

Gender diversity "makes us a stronger company because we bring together people with different perspectives and different ideas," she says."It allows us to be more innovative and better serve our clients - many of whom are women who today play a strong role in financial decision-making. It's the right thing, but also the smart thing, to do."

Fukakusa's own experience highlights how banks have changed. Early on, a top boss warned Fukakusa that she would not succeed unless she relocated from Toronto-which she never did. "That conversation would never happen today," she says. "We are more respectful of those life choices."

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