UNLEASHING THE POWER
OF WOMEN IN THE WORKFORCE
By Sarah B. Hood
Ontario has its first-ever female premier, and you might guess that the toughest battles for gender equity
had already been fought, but women are still underrepresented in senior management positions
in Canadian business.
In June 2014, a Vision Critical online survey of 1,005 Canadian adults for American Express
(Amex) Canada found that 81 per cent of women and 61 per cent of men believe that “glass ceilings” exist for
women in the workplace, while 84 per cent of women (and only 63 per cent of men) believe it takes women
longer than men to advance up the corporate ladder.
The perception is accurate: a 2011 report titled Women in Senior Management: Where Are They? prepared
by Louise Chenier and Elise Wohlbold for The Conference Board of Canada found that, although 48 per
cent of the national workforce was female, women only held about one-third of senior management positions,
and that this proportion had changed little since 1987. From 2011 to 2013, Statistics Canada reports that the
number of women in management positions actually dropped by 2.3 per cent.
The survey identified perceived barriers for women. The top barrier, identified by over one-third of respondents,
was workplace attitudes towards female leaders, followed closely by family obligations. Relatively fewer
people thought that lack of upward growth opportunities, lack of mentorship and role models, lack of flexibility
and training opportunities presented obstacles to women.
Since 1997, Catalyst, a not-for-profit organization with a mission to expand opportunities for women
and business, has been tracking the careers of almost 10,000 high-potential MBA graduates internationally.
Catalyst’s High Potential Employees in the Pipeline: Global and Canadian Findings identifies root causes for the
gender difference; among these, Canadian high-potential women earned an average of $8,167 less than men
in their first job after obtaining their MBA. They were also more likely to start out at a lower level than their
male counterparts, and twice as likely to choose a non-corporate employer in their first job.
Clearly, there are gender differences in the workplace and, despite good work that has been done in this field
since the 1960s, women are still at a disadvantage. So what approach should Canadian businesses be taking?
HRPATODAY.CA ❚ JANUARY 2015 ❚ 25