12 Apr Defining Roadblocks to Diversity Opens a Path to Success
In February, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump announced a joint initiative designed to promote female entrepreneurs and drive economic growth on both sides of the border. This could be a springboard to defining roadblocks to diversity within the workplace.
There is political will to develop policies to keep women in the workforce and address their demands.
The new council includes a number of several high-profile women from both countries including female CEOs from General Motors, Accenture, TransAlta Corp Corporation, Linamar CropCorporation and General Electric Canada.
While it isn’t clear yet what the panel will do, there is political will to develop policies to keep women in the workforce and address the demands of having both a job and a family. One key point that came out of the discussions was the recognition that women entrepreneurs find it more difficult than their male counterparts to access capital. But capital is only one barrier for women in business.
Barriers for Women
According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation only 8.5 per cent of the highest paid positions in Canada’s top 100 companies are held by women. Meanwhile the World Economic Forum says, “the most important determinant of a country’s competitiveness is its human talent – the skills, education and productivity of its workforce.”
Even in Canada, which in 2010 ranked 20 out of 134 countries in terms of its gender gap based on economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment, there is room for improvement in labour force participation and wage gap. There are still policy barriers that impact women – primarily lack of affordable and flexible childcare.
Start the Conversation
What needs to change to propel Canada into the top 10 with countries like Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden? Here are three ideas to start the conversation:
Generous Parental Leave and Affordable Childcare
Nordic countries in particular offer generous paternal leave in combination with maternity leave benefits, tax incentives and employment re-entry programs. These policies lead to high female participation within the workforce, but additionally stabilize birthrates and reduce the impact of aging in the future.
The secret to promoting diversity in the workforce is to develop an economy which makes it possible for employees to find a work-life balance.
Equal Representation on Boards and in Politics
Since 2008, publicly listed companies in Norway are required to have 40% of each gender on their boards. Other countries are adopting similar measures. Canada has a target of 30% female board representation, but as of last fall reporting submitted by the 677 companies list on the TSX showed women made up only 12% of board seats.
In Canada, with the last Federal election, we see the Liberal cabinet positions equally divided between men and women. However, the number of women sitting in the house is only 26%. Given that women make up 50% of the population, there’s still room for better representation in our political landscape as well.
Equal Pay for Equal Work
Not only do the Nordic countries report higher participation of women in the labour force than other countries, the salary gaps between the sexes are among the lowest in the world. Women also have more opportunities to rise to positions of leaderships.
In Canada, women are still paid 25% less than men for the performing the same roles. Additionally, anecdotal evidence shows women in their child-bearing years are passed over for promotion or partnership.
At its core, the secret to promoting diversity in the workforce is to develop an economy which makes it possible for employees to find a work-life balance. This means both women and men share participation in the workforce and at home because both are valued equally. It will be interesting to watch what happens with the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders and its impact on these issues.
Sales Beacon is passionate about empowering women and developing opportunities in rural communities across Canada. Sales Beacon is proud to hold diversity certification with WBE Canada and WEConnect International and was recently chosen as second runner up in the video category at the WeConnect International Gala 2017.