Managing work, family biggest challenge for women striving for senior ranks: Survey

Outdated perceptions of women also an obstacle

There are still many obstacles women need to overcome in the workplace when striving to reach the managerial and executive ranks, according to a survey of 500 female managers and executives released by Randstad Canada.

Three in five (60 per cent) see managing work and family as the most challenging obstacle women face, though outdated perceptions of women in managerial and executive roles (51 per cent), limited opportunities in the Canadian market (50 per cent) and a lack of female mentors and training (49 per cent) are also difficult factors to overcome.

However, the vast majority of those polled (91 per cent) felt they have been able to effectively strike a balance between the work and family well. Additionally, 43 per cent felt it is easier to manage work and home obligations today than it was five years ago, compared to 28 per cent who disagreed.

“What we’re seeing are some very positive signs for women that are striving to reach the managerial and executive levels of their organizations, but some very real challenges and obstacles that they are still facing,” says Gina Ibghy, vice-president of organizational development and human resources at Randstad Canada. “When it comes to excelling both at work and outside of it, women face unique challenges including, unfortunately, outdated perceptions that make it difficult for women to move up the ranks.”

Many Canadian women in managerial and executive roles continue to see a divide in the way men and women are compensated and rewarded when reaching the senior ranks, according to Randstad. More than three-quarters (77 per cent) felt there remained a moderate or large divide between the salaries women can expect for performing the same roles as men.

More than nine in 10 (92 per cent) women surveyed felt there was at least some discrepancy between men and women in terms of opportunities for promotions, while 70 per cent felt men are more likely to be given the opportunity to make important decisions than women. Sixty-nine per cent of those polled also felt men more frequently receive the best jobs and projects when compared to women in similar roles.

However, there have been positive changes, found the survey, as more women leaders are demanding equal opportunity for promotions within organizations (28 per cent), followed by better work-life balance and flexible working arrangements (16 per cent) and more opportunities (12 per cent).

More than one-half (51 per cent) of respondents expect to see more women in managerial and executive roles in five years compared to today — with only three per cent feeling the opposite. Health care (58 per cent) and education (52 per cent) are the two industries in which those polled felt there would be the greatest opportunity for women to move into managerial and executive positions over the next three years, followed by not for profit (35 per cent), financial services (32 per cent) and hospitality (29 per cent).

Industries that have traditionally been seen as more male-dominated, such as engineering and construction (six per cent), transportation and logistics (two per cent) and manufacturing (one per cent) were seen as providing much less opportunity for women to move into senior roles in the coming years, found Randstad.

“In order to attract the top talent and truly promote gender diversity in more senior roles, it will be important for Canadian employers to demonstrate that the opportunities available to women in their organization are every bit as attractive as they are for men in similar capacities,” said Ibghy.

Other highlights from the survey:

•41 per cent of the women polled were already in an executive position at their organization while 38 per cent were not in a senior position and said they did not personally aspire to a senior executive role within their organization.

•More than four out of five (84 per cent) of the women polled said their organization had not provided them with a sponsor or mentor to help in their career path, and 79 per cent felt internal sponsors are an important factor in helping more women obtain managerial and executive roles going forward.

•Strong leadership abilities (98 per cent), rational and quick decision-making abilities (98 per cent), exceptional results (94 per cent), networking skills (93 per cent) and self-promotion (89 per cent) were almost universally seen as important skills or factors to helping more women attain senior roles in the next three to five years.

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