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Canadian Women In Leadership Survey Finds ‘It Still Sounds Like 1979’ At The Top

A poll from Randstad Canada has found wide discrepancies in attitudes between women and men, and old stereotypes persist.
Shannon Fagan via Getty Images

MONTREAL ― We may be living in the age of #metoo, but in Canada’s boardrooms, attitudes on gender equality aren’t shifting much, and a wide gap exists between how women and men view the issue.

Nearly two-thirds of women (62 per cent) surveyed by human resources firm Randstad Canada said discrimination is the main reason why so few women have made it to the top echelons of the business world. But only a minority of men, 41 per cent, agreed.

“It still sounds like 1979 for women,” Randstad said in a press release.

Watch: How long will it take to close the gender wage gap? Story continues below.

The survey cited a 2015 research paper from Rosenzweig and Company, which found that only 8.5 per cent of the top-paid positions at Canada’s 100 largest firms were held by women.

That’s despite the fact that both men and women agree gender equality is good for a business’ bottom line ― though women were more likely to agree.

The survey found a similar chasm in perceptions of the wage gap, with 63 per cent of women saying it exists, while only 45 per cent of men agreed. And more than a quarter of male respondents ― 27 per cent ― said women are underrepresented because of a lack of skilled, qualified candidates.

“The things that are holding women back seem to be remaining the same, from gender stereotypes and what we see with unconscious bias,” said Carolyn Levy, president, technology, at Randstad Canada.

“If this number of working men don’t believe gender discrimination is an issue and that there simply aren’t qualified women for leadership roles, it creates a barrier for women’s advancement.”

“Some other countries have noved faster from creating awareness to creating action,” Levy said. ”That to me is a call to action. ... We need to be a leader in that space.”

The survey found traditional gender stereotypes are still prominent in the workplace. Respondents tended to think of men as “more confident and analytical” and likelier to exceed at math and sciences, while women were seen as “more likely to excel at caregiving, communications and fine arts.”

“Wherever there are women, encourage them to tell their stories and why they are there.”

- Carolyn Levy, president, technology, Randstad Canada

Levy urges business leaders to “increase awareness of what’s happening within their individual businesses,” adding that it’s “encouraging” that among younger workers ― those under 35 ― support for gender equality rises among men.

But for longer-term solutions, Levy suggests we need more fundamental cultural change. There are many sectors of the economy where women are few and far between ― mining and construction, to name two ― and addressing that will take more than changing how people are promoted within companies.

“It’s actually at the level … where collectively as a society we start to engage little girls into being curious about different things,” Levy told HuffPost Canada.

“Are they going into STEM camps, or are they just going into dance camps? Are they really exposed to what their options might be, and what they might make a meaningful connection to?”

Levy suggests the education system could help with that. And in industries with few females, “wherever there are women, encourage them to tell their stories and why they are there,” she said.

Randstad surveyed 2,000 adult workers, in equal proportion of women and men.

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