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Canada lags behind peer countries on female representation in management: report

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce says women leaders in the corporate world still face barriers, with significant gaps in business ownership, representation and compensation. Women walk in the financial district in Toronto on Wednesday, September 29, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Evan Buhler

OTTAWA — Women in corporate leadership still face barriers, with significant gaps in business ownership, representation and compensation, said the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. 

In a new report Tuesday, the organization said Canada lags behind nearly half of its OECD peers in its share of female managers. 

While women have made strides in the overall workforce, holding almost half of all jobs in 2023, the report said the same cannot be said for higher-ranking positions. 

In 2023, the share of women in management — including middle management — was 35 per cent, the report said. And the higher up the ladder, the fewer women the report found, with women making up less than one quarter of boardroom seats in corporate Canada. 

“The data show that barriers for women persist most prominently in management positions and in boardrooms," said Marwa Abdou, lead author and senior research director for the chamber's Business Data Lab, in a press release.

In 2020, only 21 per cent of board directors were women, up from 18 per cent in 2016. 

The report said there's still a pay gap as well, with women earning 88 cents to the dollar in management occupations compared with men in 2023. 

The gaps are wider in certain industries, such as natural resources and construction, and narrower in others like health care and education. 

There are also geographic differences; Prince Edward Island, for example, is the only province where women in management actually earn more than men, the report said. In Quebec, women earn 95 cents to a man's dollar, while in Alberta it's only 81 cents. 

Meanwhile, Atlantic Canada and Quebec have the smallest gaps when it comes to women's representation in management, while Central and Western Canada have the farthest to go. 

Some of the barriers preventing women from advancing cited in the report include organizational culture problems, such as inflexible work conditions and discrimination, as well as a lack of organizational support. Self-employed women may face prohibitive financing and credit requirements, or a lack of information and support. 

"There are several practical things we can do, such as tracking hiring and promotion outcomes, providing upskilling and mentorship, and holding senior leaders accountable for diversity goals," said Abdou, adding that addressing parental leave gaps and improving access to funding and support would also help. 

"If we don’t redouble our efforts now, our granddaughters will face many of the same challenges experienced by today’s women in business," she said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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