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Glacial progress means women in business unlikely to achieve full equity this century.

Report from Canadian Chamber of Commerce highlights the persistent barriers for women in management, leadership, and entrepreneurship.

[OTTAWA] — [March 5, 2024] — The Canadian Chamber of Commerce released a new report Tuesday, showing that while Canada has made some positive strides in advancing equality for women in business, there is much work to be done if we are to achieve the success seen in other countries around the world.

According to the report, Barely Breaking Ground: The Slow Stride of Progress for Women in Business Leadership and Entrepreneurship, Canada is behind nearly half of all OECD countries in its share of women managers, has failed to bridge persistent representation and compensation gaps for women in management and leadership positions in corporate Canada, and has a significant representation gap in business ownership relative to women’s population share.

“Women in Canada face not one glass ceiling but several, and not one broken rung in the promotion ladder but many—all of which hinder their ascent to full equality,” says Marwa Abdou, the report’s lead author, and Senior Research Director with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Business Data Lab. “The data show that barriers for women persist most prominently in management positions and in

While women have made gains in overall employment, rising from 43 per cent of total jobs in 1987 to 48 per cent in 2023, they fare worse in senior-ranking positions. In 2023, the share of women across all management occupations, which includes middle managers, was only 35 per cent; this share falls to 30 per cent for senior managers, and less than 25 per cent in the boardrooms of corporate Canada. If current trends persist, national parity will not be achieved within this century.

“The knock-on effects of limited progress for women extend beyond traditional workplaces,” says Abdou. “The barriers women face are likely motivating many to turn to entrepreneurship and self-employment. That seems like a silver lining—to have more women starting businesses—but women entrepreneurship is concentrated in the very gendered industries where they face additional challenges, such as reduced access to capital, less information and fewer resources, as well as unfavourable business environments.”

The good news is that women’s wages have grown faster than men’s in recent decades, however,
notable compensation gaps remain. In 2023, women earned less than men—88 cents to the dollar in management occupations, up from only 80 cents in 1997.

Looking across Canada, there are some bright spots, with women having achieved parity in representation in six of the 19 management occupations analyzed, with the strongest showing in healthcare and education, although major gaps remain in natural resources and construction. In Prince Edward Island, women earn more than men in management occupations, and in Quebec, women are closing in on pay parity. Conversely, women in Alberta have the farthest to go.

“Awareness of the importance of these issues is clearly building across society. Now is the time to take the next steps to invest in women and accelerate progress” says Abdou. “There are several practical things we can do, such as track hiring and promotion outcomes, provide upskilling and mentorship, and hold senior leaders accountable for diversity goals. We can also address parental leave gaps for women entrepreneurs, consider changes to government lending practices to better reach women entrepreneurs, and improve awareness of existing funding and support services. If we don’t redouble our efforts now, our granddaughters will face many of the same challenges experienced by today’s women in business.”

About the Canadian Chamber of Commerce — The Future of Business Success
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is Canada’s largest and most activated business network — representing over 400 chambers of commerce and boards of trade and more than 200,000 business of all sizes, from all sectors of the economy and from every part of the country — to create the conditions for our collective success. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is the undisputed champion and catalyst for the future of business success. From working with government on economy-friendly policy to providing services that inform commerce and enable trade, we give each of our members more of what they need to succeed: insight into markets, competitors and trends, influence over the decisions and policies that drive business success and impact on business and economic performance.


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