Much has been said about Canada’s progressive business environment removing the glass ceiling for women in the workplace. But are our corner offices any more accessible for women today than they have been in the past? According to the findings of the recent Women in Leadership survey of 500 female managers and executives, conducted by Ipsos-Reid on behalf of Randstad Canada  in late June, there are still many obstacles that women need to overcome in the workplace when striving to reach the managerial and executive ranks.
Today, three in five (60%) women see managing work and family as the most challenging obstacle that women face, though outdated perceptions of women in managerial and executive roles (51%), limited opportunities in the Canadian market (50%) and a lack of female mentors and training (49%) remain difficult factors to overcome.
While managing work and family is the most challenging obstacle, the vast majority of those polled (91%) felt they have been able to effectively strike a balance between the two well. Additionally, nearly half (43%) feel it is easier to manage work and home obligations today than it was five years ago. With that said, nearly one in three (28%) women felt it was actually more difficult to manage the two today than in the past.
“What we’re seeing are some very positive signs for women that are striving to reach the managerial and executive levels of their organizations, but some very real challenges and obstacles that they are still facing,” says Gina Ibghy, Vice President, Organizational Development and Human Resources, Randstad Canada. “When it comes to excelling both at work and outside of it, women face unique challenges including, unfortunately, outdated perceptions that make it difficult for women to move up the ranks.”
In fact, the survey results indicate that many Canadian women in managerial and executive roles continue to see a very real divide in the way men and women are compensated and rewarded when reaching the senior ranks. According to polling, more than three in four (77%) felt there remained a moderate or large divide between the salaries women can expect for performing the same roles as men, with Ontarians (83%) feeling it most strongly in their market.
This divide extends to a number of other important elements, such as promotions, influence in making important decisions and being given the best jobs/projects. More than nine in ten (92%) women surveyed felt there was at least some discrepancy between men and women in terms of opportunities for promotions, while 70% felt men are more likely to be given the opportunity to make important decisions than women. Sixty-nine per cent of those polled also felt that men more frequently receive the best jobs and projects when compared to women in similar roles.
However, there have been positive changes made in the past five years to encourage more parity between men and women. According to those polled, the biggest change in the past five years is that there are more women leaders seen demanding equal opportunity for promotions within organizations (28%), followed by better work-life balance and flexible working arrangements (16%) and more opportunities (12%).
In fact, more than half of those polled (51%) expect to see more women in managerial and executive roles in five years compared to today – with only three per cent feeling there will be less in the future. Healthcare (58%) and Education (52%) are the two industries in which those polled felt there would be the greatest opportunity for women to move into managerial and executive positions over the next three years, followed by Not for Profit (35%), Financial Services (32%) and Hospitality (29%). Industries that have traditionally been seen as more male dominated, such as Engineering and Construction (6%), Transportation and Logistics (2%) and Manufacturing (1%) were seen as providing much less opportunity for women to move into senior roles in the coming years.
“It’s apparent that many women still feel there is a very real divide between what they can expect in senior roles, compared to their male counterparts. However, there does appear to be optimism that more opportunities are on the horizon for women” says Ibghy. “In order to attract the top talent and truly promote gender diversity in more senior roles, it will be important for Canadian employers to demonstrate that the opportunities available to women in their organization are every bit as attractive as they are for men in similar capacities.”
Other interesting insights from the Women in Leadership study include:
- Quebec appears to be one of, if not the, most progressive markets in Canada, with fewer Quebec-based respondents noting challenges or obstacles to overcome in their progression into management or perceptions of a divide between men and women in terms of compensation and responsibilities at more senior levels.
- Personal goals/passion (37% of respondents) and a desire to be self-sufficient (22%) have been the biggest sources of support/inspiration for those polled to strive for a managerial or executive position.
- Eighty-two per cent of respondents feel that the decision to raise a family has a greater impact on a woman than it does a man looking to advance their career.
- Of the 500 women polled, over forty percent (41%) were already in an executive position within their organization. However, nearly as many (38%) responded that they did not personally aspire to a senior executive role within their organization. Only 21 per cent of those polled that were not already in a senior capacity responded that they aspired to obtain that type of role.
- More than four out of five (84%) women polled said their organization had not provided them with a sponsor or mentor to help in their career path, though 79% feel internal sponsors are an important factor in helping more women obtain managerial and executive roles going forward.
- Strong leadership abilities (98%), rational and quick decision making abilities (98%), exceptional results (94%), networking skills (93%) and self-promotion (89%) are almost universally seen as important skills or factors to helping more women obtain senior roles in the next three to five years.
- On average, women are much more strongly represented in middle-management roles (46.2%) than in senior management (31.3%), senior leadership (28.4%) or executive board (24.5%) roles.
- The majority of women (54%) are not interested in relocating, even to a new city in their own province, for a 20% increase in salary. Less than one quarter (23%) would be willing to relocate to a new country for the same pay raise. For those that would not relocate, the main reasons are because they are happy with where they currently live and work (73%) or they’re not interested in moving away from family or friends (40%).
- Younger women (18-34) are more likely to consider relocation for a substantial raise, with seven in ten saying they would consider a job in a new city in their current province, while nearly forty per cent (38%) would consider relocating to a new country for a 20% pay increase.
Survey Methodology: These are some of the findings from an Ipsos Reid survey conducted between June 18 to 25, 2012, on behalf of Randstad Canada. A sample of 500 women who held managerial/executive roles in their organization were interviewed online. Individuals were disqualified if they did not meet management criteria. Weighting was then employed to balance regional composition according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 4.4% percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would have been had the entire population of female managers or executives in Canada been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.