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  • Kristen Balisi

The Gender Leadership Gap

Did you know women comprise just over half of the Canadian population yet continue to be underrepresented when it comes to professional leadership roles? While we have seen efforts put into fighting the battle against gender inequality in leadership positions, the gender gap has yet to close.

Why is this issue urgent?

All women have ideas. To put those ideas into action, however, they deserve a seat at the table. Devastatingly, across every sector in the world: corporate, nonprofit, government, education, medicine, military, and religion, men prevail against women when comparing the number of leadership roles.

Despite this, a plethora of hard evidence has demonstrated the positive impact women’s leadership has on economic stability, governance, and investment in areas such as health, education, and social protection. Multiple studies have also found that when women acquire senior positions, their companies become more profitable. Furthermore, a 2017 report indicated steps towards decreasing gender inequality in the workplace could benefit Canada’s economy by as much as $150 billion by 2026. All in all, this data is indicative of the transformative, society-wide benefits women can bring to the table if given the opportunity.

Sadly, women only hold 25% of vice-president positions and 15% of CEO positions in Canada. In the top 100 Canadian listed companies, women occupied merely 8.5% of the highest-paid jobs. Although Canada’s federal cabinet is currently evenly split between men and women, only 27% of the seats in the House of Commons belong to women. When viewed from this perspective, it is clear that the fight against inequality is not over.

What barriers are preventing women from obtaining leadership roles?

Sexual discrimination: Often, women are put at a disadvantage when seeking leadership roles because they do not meet the standards of the “ideal (male) leader.” Despite spending equivalent time at a job, they are 30% less likely than men to get promoted out of an entry-level position, and 60% less likely to move from middle management into the executive ranks. As a result, women may adopt a negative perspective on their ability and potential to lead. Overall, discrimination harms women’s growth, efficiency, and opportunity for success.

Gender stereotypes: Generalizations and stereotypes are a daily problem women face in the workplace because they act as a deterrent when trying to access leadership roles. Since women usually take primary responsibility for home-based labour and childcare, these responsibilities can cause work/life conflict and reinforce negative stereotypes. For instance, bosses often disregard promoting women under the impression that women will be unable to handle management duties. Also, they undergo difficulties when attempting to move their career forward and carry out challenging tasks after returning from a break.

Ultimately, though more women have chosen to pursue careers in male-dominated spaces, it may still be tough to compete. For men, such career paths are heavily walked upon already, seeing as numerous male managers have previously guided the way. Therefore, how can women compete with their male colleagues who are already on track to become managers? Most importantly, how can they advance their careers if no one’s advocating for them and if there are no other female leaders who can set the example?

To change this gender imbalance, more discussion on the need for gender equality is essential. Most important, however, are tangible and proactive actions. To all the young girls and women who feel like they don’t have a voice, who feel like they can’t speak their minds, and who are afraid to challenge gender barriers, please know that you have the potential to change the world.

With that said, let’s recommit to paving the way towards gender equality today, for the female leaders of tomorrow.


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