Many of the key inhibitors to female progression in the workplace are not easily identifiable factors that can be addressed by corporate policies or workplace procedures, according to a survey released by Randstad Canada. That’s because wider societal perceptions of women and the complexities of male and female interactions are at play.
Ninety per cent of respondents said they believe 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, found the survey of 501 women who held managerial or executive roles.
While 55 per cent of older workers are the most likely to say image plays a very large factor in a women's career, 42 per cent of younger women say the same. And 33 per cent of those respondents under the age of 35 feel image plays no factor at all.
As to whether having a male or female boss can affect career progression, Canadian women are divided but 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, chief people officer at Randstad Canada. "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."
Sixty-five percent of the respondents say women are better leaders, citing as reasons enhanced communication, empathy, flexibility and organizational skills. But 77 per cent say women have to work longer hours and harder than a male counterpart to attain these positions.
Three in five women say managing work and family is the most challenging obstacle women face, at 61 per cent. And 49 per cent say companies fear absences among female employees due to family commitments — and this has an impact on career progression.
Women also cited 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 Ibghy.
Other highlights from the study:
•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) and travel opportunities (57 per cent.)
•More flexible working arrangements continues to be the area that respondents feel would help females obtain managerial or executive positions, at 60 per cent.
•Training and development programs for women are becoming a greater priority, with a seven per cent increase overall in the past year.
•At 16 per cent, there has been no gain in the number of respondents who have been provided with a sponsor or mentor since 2012.
•As in 2012, 52 per cent of respondents expect to see more women coming into management roles.
•65 per cent overall agree significant efforts have been made in encouraging greater female managerial or 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, compared to 56 per cent of Quebecers.
Full results from the study can be found at www.womenshapingbusiness.com.
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