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Women in corporate Canada still feel overworked, underpaid: survey

A glass ceiling with a woman trying to get through.

Frances Twitty/iStockphoto

The perceived divide between men and women in corporate Canada remains huge, with a large majority of women believing they work harder and are paid less than their male counterparts, a new survey suggests.

More than nine in 10 women – 93 per cent – in managerial positions in Canada feel they are still making less money than a man performing the same work, according to results of the Randstad Women Shaping Business Study.

That number is unchanged from a year ago, says the report released Tuesday.

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Seventy-eight per cent of the women polled said there is a large – 42 per cent – or moderate – 36 per cent – gap between what women and men earn in a leadership role, while 15 per cent felt there is a small divide.

Seventy-seven per cent believe women still need to work harder and put in longer hours than men to prove themselves in management and executive roles, the survey found.

Among women under the age of 35, 70 per cent felt that some discrepancy still exists between effort required of women and of men.

Yet 65 per cent of all respondents said women make better leaders than men, equipped with superior communication skills, empathy, flexibility, understanding of employees' needs and organizational talents.

Statistics and anecdotal evidence indicate that, while progress has been made over the past decades, a significant divide between women and men at the managerial and executive levels continues to exist.

Former Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Inc. chief executive officer Kathleen Taylor is set to become the first woman to chair the board of a major chartered bank – Royal Bank of Canada – in January. Yet women on RBC's board still have only 28 per cent representation.

Women make up only about 11 per cent of directors on the boards of companies in the S&P/TSX composite index.

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Recent Statistics Canada figures show that women working full-time in 2011 earned just 72 cents for every dollar earned by men.

In other survey results, the study found that image unfairly plays a far larger role in women's career progression than it does in men's: 90 per cent said that overall image, including looks, have a strong impact on women's career progress, versus only 37 per cent holding the same is true for a man's career and 25 per cent saying image is not a factor at all for men.

Asked what challenges need to be overcome in order to get ahead, 61 per cent of the women said work-family balance, 56 per cent cited "external factors," 53 per cent singled out limited opportunities in Canada and 48 per cent pointed to outdated perceptions of women in leadership roles. Another 48 per cent cited difficulties being welcomed into and trusted by the established senior management team.

"The findings … echo many sentiments from 2012 showing that while progress is being made, there is still much to be done to create a Canadian business landscape that truly reflects the gender parity of the nation's population," says the study.

Other findings:

• 30 per cent of women respondents feel that a female boss would hold back their career progression, compared with 25 per cent who say that would be the case with a male superior.

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• 92 per cent of women polled felt there is at least some divide in promotion opportunities available to men and women. Almost three-quarters – 72 per cent – believe the gap is moderate or very large.

• 70 per cent felt there is a very large or moderate split in quality of jobs, tasks or projects men get versus women in similar positions.

• 49 per cent of respondents say employers continue to fear family-related absences among women employees and this has a significant impact on their advancement.

• On a more positive note, only eight per cent said women's ability to lead is a fear companies still harbour.

• 28 per cent of those polled said the biggest change over the past five years making it easier to break the glass ceiling is the fact that more women leaders are demanding equal opportunity for promotions.

• 52 per cent are optimistic that there will be more opportunities for women to attain managerial and executive jobs over the next three to five years.

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• 60 per cent of those polled said more flexible working arrangements would mean increased opportunities for women, while 53 per cent said better mentorship or advocate programs and 52 per cent said a stronger push for diversity in managerial/executive postings.

The findings are based on an Ipsos Reid online survey conducted for Randstad Canada between Aug. 9 and Aug. 13, 2013, using a sample of 501 women in managerial or executive roles. The poll is believed accurate to within plus or minus 4.5 percentage points had all Canadian women in management positions been polled.

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