Canada's Female Leaders Acknowledge the Last Taboos Impacting Workplace Progress: Study

Image, managing work and family, and the gender of the boss prove to greatly influence promotions and advancements for women, but progress being made in corporate Canada

TORONTO, Oct. 15, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - Much has been said about Canada's progressive business environment removing the glass ceiling for women in the workplace. Yet a recent study among 501 female business leaders, conducted by Ipsos-Reid on behalf of Randstad Canada, suggests that many of the key inhibitors to female progression are not easily identifiable factors that can be addressed by corporate policies or workplace procedures, because wider societal perceptions of women and the complexities of male and female interactions are at play.

Personal Appearance Affects Promotion

When asked if personal image, including appearance, can impact career progression, 90 per cent of respondents said that they believe that overall image, including looks, have a substantial impact on a woman's career progression, while only 37 per cent believe image can have the same effect on a man's career.

"While this is a sensitive issue, marked differences in opinion between those women over 55 and those under 35 suggest that there may be progress underway," said Gina Ibghy, Chief People Officer, Randstad Canada, adding that while 55 per cent of older workers are the most likely to say that image plays a very large factor in a women's career, only 42 per cent of younger women say the same. In fact, 33 per cent of those respondents under the age of 35 feel image plays no factor at all.

Addressing another sensitive topic, the Randstad study also asked Canada's female business leaders if having a male or female boss can affect career progression. Based on the responses, Canadian women are divided in their opinions, with half stating that the gender of a superior does not impact a woman's chance to obtain a managerial or executive position and half say that it does. Interestingly, those stating that gender plays a role feel that a female boss is more likely to inhibit their progression than a male superior.

"We are surprised by this outcome in the study," said Gina Ibghy. "Because it is a common perception that women support other women in the workplace and another aspect of the study identified that mentorship and advocate programs for women by women are considered important for career advancement."

Respondents Say Women Are Better Leaders Than Men

The study also investigated another hot topic of debate - the question of whether men or women make better leaders. Sixty-five percent of the respondents say that women are better leaders, citing enhanced communication, empathy, flexibility and organizational skills as contributing to this belief.  But 77 per cent say that women have to work longer hours and harder than a male counterpart to attain these positions.

When asked about more traditional workplace challenges three in five women say managing work and family as the most challenging obstacle that women face, at 61 per cent reflecting a slight increase from 60 per cent when asked the same question a year ago. Taking this question a step further, when asked if they think that companies take women's personal commitments outside work into consideration, almost half at 49 per cent, say that companies fear absences among female employees due to family commitments and that this has impact on career progression.  Women also cite the potential for maternity leave as a large "fear factor", with 24 per cent having experienced this as an impediment to promotion.

"There are still vast differences in the way women are treated in corporate Canada, and it isn't just about compensation and access to the corner office. Less measurable, but no less important factors restricting advancement and being provided chances to make business critical decisions are at play," said Gina Ibghy.  "It's against that backdrop that we conducted the research and developed the Women Shaping Business campaign. By acknowledging these issues still exist, we aspire to start to affect positive change for women in the Canadian workplace."

Randstad Canada recently launched its second annual Women Shaping Business campaign with a call for nominations of women leaders who are impacting their organizations and their communities. Canadians can nominate by sharing stories of female leaders they admire at

"There is no doubt that women are strong leaders.  Our goal is to encourage executives, employees and all Canadians to have an open discussion about the last workplace taboos that create obstacles for female executives," added Gina Ibghy.

So what does help women advance in the workplace? The study respondents say that it is those women leaders themselves who are demanding equal opportunities that continue to be the biggest influence on making executive positions more obtainable for women.

Other interesting insights from the Women Shaping Business study include:

  • Women continue to see a substantial perceived divide between men and women when it comes to salary (78 per cent), promotions (72 per cent), getting the best tasks and projects (70 per cent), influencing important decisions (67 per cent), travel opportunities (57 per cent.)

  • More flexible working arrangements continues to be the area which respondents feel an improvement would help benefit the ability for females to obtain managerial/executive positions at 60 per cent, a slight decline from 2012.

  • Training and Development Programs for Women are becoming a greater priority, with a 7per cent increase overall in the past year.

  • At 16 per cent, there has been no gain in the number of respondents that have been provided with a sponsor/mentor since 2012 and substantially fewer respondents from Quebec have been provided with a mentor/sponsor year over year. One in five women in business in Ontario and BC have a sponsor/mentor.

  • As in 2012, 52 per cent expect to see more women coming into management roles, although Quebec respondents are substantially more optimistic about the prospects for more women in managerial/executive this year than last, with a 6 per cent increase in expectations and younger respondents (under 34) are slightly more optimistic than those 35 and above/

  • 65 per cent overall agree that significant efforts have been made in encouraging greater female managerial/executive representation in non-traditional fields such as oil and gas, IT and construction, although there are regional differences with 72 per cent of Ontario respondents agreeing, while only 56 per cent of Quebecers feel significant efforts have been made in these sectors

Full results from the study are available online at

Survey Methodology:  These are some of the findings from an Ipsos Reid survey conducted between August 9 and 13, 2013, on behalf of Randstad Canada. A sample of 501 women who held managerial/executive roles in their organization were interviewed online. Individuals were disqualified if they did not meet management criteria. Weighting was then employed to balance regional composition according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/- 4.5 percentage points had all Canadian women in management positions been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

About Randstad Canada: Randstad Canada is the Canadian leader for staffing, recruitment and HR Services. As the only fully integrated staffing company in the country, we understand the recruitment needs and demands of employers and job seekers across all levels and industries. Through our insightful knowledge of local markets, employment trends and global network of recruitment experts, we are shaping the Canadian world of work. Visit

SOURCE: Randstad Canada

For further information:

James Rubec
Marie-Noelle Morency

416.962.9578 x2512
514.350.5309 x233

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