When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the mandate that his cabinet would have gender equality – 15 men and 15 women – many Canadians were excited about the very public example of women in leadership roles.
Trudeau said it was important for women to be given an equal voice on Parliament Hill, with more agendas moving forward on women’s issues.
Women will be able to give their perspective, ‘because it’s 2015.’
However, in 2015 there are still very little women in leadership roles in Canadian workplaces.
Randstad Canada’s fourth annual Women Shaping Business study found that ‘nearly three-quarters of working Canadian women are in roles below the management level.’
And what was cited as the number one barrier to leadership? An employer’s fear of absence due to family obligations.
Faith Tull, senior vice president, human resources at Randstad Canada said that in order to promote gender diversity in more senior roles ‘Canadian employers need to enhance their offerings to alleviate workplace stress related to family obligations.’
“Making leadership opportunities accessible and attractive for women starts with nurturing a work culture of flexibility, openness and empowerment,” she said.
Not being backed by a union can also make things more difficult. With union representation also comes the security in knowing you will not be denied a promotion into a leadership role, paid an unfair wage or terminated because of your gender or family obligations.
Studies have shown that being a member of a union can help narrow the gender wage gap for women. Union members earn on average $5.28 per hour more than workers without a union and women earn $7.10 per hour more on average with a union.
All of these are important factors, as the study found more than three-quarters of working Canadian women ‘believe there is a divide compared to men in the workplace when it comes to salaries, influence in making important decisions, promotions, and getting the best jobs, tasks or projects.’
Trudeau set a great example, but we still need to take a closer look at the barriers women face moving into leadership roles in Canada.