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Facts about women and leadership

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Women can do it. Four female characters walk up together and hold arms. Girls support each other. Friendship poster, the union of feminists and sisterhood. Vector illustration
Women can do it. Four female characters walk up together and hold arms. Girls support each other. Friendship poster, the union of feminists and sisterhood. Vector illustration

Women make up a little more than half the population of Canada, yet continue to be underrepresented in political and professional leadership positions.

Having women in leadership roles is not only inspiring to girls and other women, but will also influence the high-level decision-making that will guide the way to gender equality. Women’s empowerment and economic growth are linked to women’s equality, a basic human right and also necessary for a more peaceful and successful world.

These are some common questions asked about women and leadership in Canada:

Shouldn’t the most qualified person get the job, regardless of gender?

Some argue that more men hold leadership roles simply because they are more qualified. However, women are just as qualified as men when we look at education and experience.

As of 2015, 35% of Canadian women held a university certificate or degree, compared to 30% of men. Women and men also have very similar job tenure. A national study found that both women and men report having worked for their current employer for an average of eight years.

So it seems education and experience isn’t everything. Despite spending equivalent time at a job, women are 30% less likely than men to get promoted out of an entry-level position, and 60% less likely to be promoted into the executive ranks.

Not to mention many women take primary responsibility for childcare and home-based labour, which can affect work/life balance, reinforce negative stereotypes, and create barriers to achieving leadership roles.

Why is it so important to have more women in leadership roles?

Having more women in leadership positions will help Canada achieve gender equality. Women leaders in Canada will help influence decisions involving policies, laws, and management, and will act as role models and mentors for young women.

A KPMG study on women and leadership found that:

  • 82% of professional working women believe interacting and networking with female leaders will help them advance their career.
  • 86% of women reported that when they see more women in leadership, they are encouraged to get there themselves.
  • 91% of working women reported that it’s important to them to be a positive role model for younger women in the workplace.

What can we do to encourage more women toward leadership roles?

Three in four women wish they had learned more about leadership and had more opportunities to learn how to lead when they were growing up. 86% of women remember being taught to be nice to others when growing up, but only 44% remember being taught to be a good leader and only 34% were taught to share their point of view.

Here are some ways we can encourage more women leaders:

Showcase women leaders: People naturally picture leaders as male, even children. When asked to draw “an effective leader,” the children overwhelmingly drew pictures of men, a study found. By putting women leaders into the spotlight, we can change this archetype.

Promote a more gender-inclusive culture: Start with setting guidelines that promote gender equality at work. Everyone in an organization should have the chance to be promoted to any position they’re qualified for. Salaries should be offered based on current market rates and not just individual salary histories. If there’s maternity leave, there should also be paternity leave.

Mentorship and women-led programs: Providing young girls access to mentors can help teach them about being leaders and increase their potential. These programs can help girls develop leadership skills and become role models in their communities.


  • Yasmin Missaghian is a freelance writer and editor from Ottawa, Ontario. She has a diploma in writing and publishing from Okanagan College and is finishing her English degree at Carleton University. She has written many articles for OptiMYz and its sister magazine, SILVER, and has poetry published in anthologies. She is passionate about mental health, diversity, and empowering women.

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