Diversity and Women’s Participation in Leadership Roles

Women comprise half the labour force in Canada. The education levels achieved by women in Canada are also comparable to men. But at the highest levels of leadership and management, women are not represented to the same extent their composition in the labour force indicates, and face unique barriers to advancement. In fact, Canada lags behind other advanced economies in terms of providing economic opportunities and political empowerment to women.  According to a recent study by Statistics Canada, women are underrepresented in positions of leadership, corporate governance and strategic decision-making. Women who are visible minorities, Indigenous or disabled account for even less of that representation. Intersecting identities, often overlooked, affect, or prevent, the advancement of women in the workforce. What kinds of solutions can be sought to break down barriers and advance the progress of women of all identities in the labour force?

A starting point, as this Statistics Canada study shows, is to examine the socioeconomic characteristics of women in leadership. Variables, such as family, work and income disparities, in addition to the size of professional networks, influence the trajectories of women’s progression in the workforce and their inclusion. Recognizing how changing social and economic factors affect opportunities for women is important. The types of firms where women are given the chance to contribute most to leadership roles are also considered.

Like Statistics Canada, Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute has created the report Diversity Leads to better understand women’s representation in leadership in various sectors. Using an intersectional focus, this report tracks and analyzes the representation of women, Black people, and other visible minorities in board member roles in the corporate, voluntary, education, and medical sectors in eight Canadian cities. According to the Diversity Institute, women are underrepresented, but in line with Statistics Canada’s reporting, non-racialized women outnumber racialized women in terms of representation at the highest levels of leadership. There were also limitations to finding public quantitative data. Therefore, the writers of the report also sought out interviews with racialized minorities to understand experiences and find potential solutions and strategies for change.

Data is required to understand how the progression of women in different sectors and different levels of management take place. For reports such as these, the lack of publicly available data often proves to be a hindrance. These reports also suggest that, integrated and cohesive strategies are needed to address issues of diversity and inclusion that take into account women’s experiences from an intersectional perspective. Leaders can convey the significance of breaking down barriers to advancement by collecting data from all designated employment equity groups, setting and achieving targets, measuring results, accounting for diversity and inclusion in skills matrices, and acting on solutions that accomplish measurable outcomes. At every level, evaluation goals, metrics and accountability can help to reinforce the importance of including women’s intersecting identities in the shaping of progressive human resource practices.

This article is part of the campaign Systemic Participation. Funded by Heritage Canada :

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EcoAmbassadeurs is a non-profit organization providing bilingual services in the fields of health, education, entreprenuership and ecology. Our goal is to support the members of our community for their social, economic and civic development.

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