Harness the potential of your female workforce
Women in Work Index: Canadian insights
Gender parity at all levels in the workplace improves profitability, workplace culture and the economy as a whole. By closing the wage gap and increasing female workforce participation, Canada will likely see a CA$92 billion increase in female earnings and CA$105 billion in GDP growth, respectively.
Our Women in Work Index is a weighted average of five measures that reflect female economic empowerment, including the equality of earnings, the ability of women to access employment opportunities and job security. The results show Canada is holding steady in eighth position out of 33 countries. While the progress Canadian businesses have made is impressive, there’s room for improvement, including increasing awareness of the pay gap, encouraging mentorship opportunities and offering supportive policies and working arrangements.
Female labour force participation
OECD average: 68%
Canada has strong labour force participation, above the OECD average of 68%
Gap between male and female labour force participation
OECD average: 12%
The gap in labour force participation has been declining since 2000 but stayed constant between 2013 and 2014
Female unemployment rate
OECD average: 9%
Female unemployment remained roughly constant on average with a slight decrease since 2000
Full-time employment rate
OECD average: 75%
The percentage of women in full-time employment is below the OECD average and has stayed flat since 2000
Gender wage gap
OECD average: 17%
Canada ranks 25th out of 33 countries, showing room for improvement in closing the gap
Female boardroom membership
ranked 14th out of 33
Canada’s 11% away from the federal government’s corporate target of 30% by 2019
The average man in Canada's workforce make 19% more than the average Canadian woman.
OECD average: $83 vs $100
In Canada, women are paid $81 for every $100 their male counterparts earn.
The gender pay gap remains wide, and closing it should be a priority for businesses and governments across Canada. In Canada, women are paid $81 for every $100 their male counterparts earn, around $2 less than the OECD average. Canada reduced its gender wage gap from 24% in 2000 to 19% in 2013, and it remained the same in 2014.
Closing this wage gap will not only deliver a significant increase in overall female labour earnings, but it will also benefit Canada’s economy. Increasing female workers’ pay to be on par with that of their male colleagues would increase total female earnings by an estimated CA$92 billion.*
Awareness and transparency
Supportive policies and programs
* We consider the potential increase to total female earnings from completely closing the gender wage gap such that the average annual earnings for women is equal to the average annual earnings for men. This allows us to calculate the average male and female earnings from data on total male and female earnings.
Gender diversity is vital for businesses, enabling employees to turn differences in thought, behaviour, knowledge and talent into innovative practices that can drive an organization forward. Female and male economic participation rates reflect society’s education levels, workplace conditions and cultural attitudes outside the office.
In Canada, the gap in workforce participation between men and women fell from 12% in 2000 to 7% in 2014. The overall participation of women in the workforce was at 74% in 2014, up from 70% in 2000 and above the OECD average of 68%. Despite that, full-time female employment has remained steady at 73% since 2000. On the other hand, female unemployment (6%) has decreased slightly since 2000 as Canada saw a reduction of 1% from 2000 to 2014.
International Monetary Fund staff analysis reported that higher female participation “has a strong impact on productivity growth.”1 For Canada, increasing the female employment rate to match that of Sweden—a consistently high performer in the index—could result in a GDP boost of 4.9%, equivalent to more than CA$105 billion. Across the OECD, the long-term gains from equal employment rates are estimated to be more than US$5 trillion.
Supportive policies and programs
Sponsorships and mentorships
1. International Monetary Fund. May 9, 2016. Canada: Staff concluding statement of the 2016 Article IV mission. Link Retrieved August 9, 2016.
Achieving gender balance on boards is an economic imperative, but Canada lags behind other developed nations. As it stands, Canada is at 19% female boardroom representation in 2015, up from 13% in 2014. A report by the federal government’s Advisory Council recommended a target of 30% for corporations by 2019.
With Canada ranking 14th out of 33 OECD countries, we should look at what other territories are doing to improve. For example, some countries have specific boardroom membership targets for women, such as Norway (40%), France (40%), Belgium (33%) and Italy (33%). And in the United Kingdom, Her Majesty’s Treasury released a voluntary charter2 early in 2016 to get the financial services sector to increase the number of women in senior positions. The charter—which organizations see more as a requirement—expects firms that sign up to link senior executives’ remuneration with “delivery against internal targets on gender diversity.” It’s only a matter of time before similar pledges arrive in Canada.
Research by Catalyst reveals that Fortune 500 companies with the highest percentages of female directors on their boards reported a 53% higher return on equity (ROE) than others3. Credit Suisse also reported that the average ROE of companies with at least one female board member was 14%4, three percentage points higher than those with no women at all. Career advancement relies on targeted practices, supportive programs and strong mentors to help shatter the glass ceiling. Data is starting to show that when there are more women in senior leadership positions, more women see a path to executive roles.
Awareness and transparency
2. HM Treasury. July 28, 2016. Women in finance charter: A pledge for gender balance across financial services. Link Retrieved August 9, 2016.
3. Status of Women Canada. June 2014. Good for business: A plan to promote the participation of more women on Canadian boards. Link Retrieved August 9, 2016.
4. Credit Suisse. September 23, 2014. Press release: Companies with higher female participation at Board level or in top management exhibit higher returns, higher valuations and higher payout ratios, according to a report by Credit Suisse Research Institute. Link Retrieved August 9, 2016.
of all corporate board members in Canada were female
the Government of Canada’s Advisory Council has set a target of 30% women across all corporate boards by 2019
For organizations and national economies, not prioritizing gender equality is a missed opportunity. Our research shows diversity in the workforce has an impact on the bottom line when companies close the wage gap, increase full-time female participation rates and improve leadership representation. As well, governments around the world have begun to introduce diversity targets and regulations like the United Kingdom’s Women in Finance Charter, so there’s growing incentive to prepare for change.
Gain insight with analytics: Benchmark your organization’s workforce metrics, such as pay, recruitment targets, team composition and promotion times. Once you know where you stand, establish a vision, set ambitious goals and engage employees. Continuously improve your efforts over the long term.
Adjust your people strategy: Address the unconscious biases people at the company may hold and find opportunities to improve recruitment, succession planning and promotion practices. Make sure leaders are accountable for gender diversity. As well, adopt flexible working opportunities and parental support services to help retain talent.
Treat workforce goals as you would financial goals. This means connecting leaders’ performance bonuses with reaching parity targets to help reinforce the behaviours that will drive success.
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