Women’s careers still encountering major obstacles

Lack of responsibilities, persistence of prejudices, difficulties in reconciling personal and professional life, wage gaps, etc… There are still many obstacles to advancing women’s careers, according to a survey conducted by Ipsos-Reid for Randstad for the 2nd consecutive year. The most striking fact from the survey is that overall image, including physical appearance, has major repercussions on professional development, according to an overwhelming majority of the 501 respondents.


90% of women think that their overall image plays a decisive role in the development of their career. Although this opinion is shared by a majority of older persons, at 55%, 42% of younger persons came to the same conclusion. Are men also victims of this stress on appearance? Yes, but only 36% of those surveyed think so.


Careers full of pitfalls


The Canadian labour market presents a set of obstacles and challenges that women face. In the first place, managing the balance between personal and professional life disturbs 61% of them. Other sources of concern are external factors, such as the recession or job losses, for 56% in Canada and the lack of opportunities on the job market for 53% of women. Those under 35 years old feel more affected, since 67% of them mentioned this obstacle. Finally, 48% of women experience outdated perceptions in supervisory or management positions, 48% struggle to be accepted and respected among established management staff and 47% consider that mentoring by a women would help them more in their professional development.


The ever-present glass ceiling


There is still far from equality for Canadians. Indeed, 78% of them believe that there is a major or moderate disparity in terms of salaries for leadership roles. It’s the same story for promotions, for which there are moderate or major differences in treatment between the sexes, according to 72% of women. Why would companies have more difficulty promoting a women than a man? For nearly half of those interviewed (49%), employers are afraid of repeated absences due to family obligations and for nearly one quarter (24%) the possibility of maternity leave is a cause for concern.

Equality is still not found in terms of responsibility, influence and opportunities. In fact 70% believe that the best jobs, tasks and projects are entrusted to men in similar positions. 67% feel that there is a disparity when it comes to important decisions for the company and 57% think they have less opportunities for business travel.


Leaders: a mixed picture


Close to half of women (49%) say that the sex of their immediate superior does not have an impact on the chance of getting a supervisory or management position. Among those who said otherwise, one out of three believes it’s more likely that a women boss could interfere with their career advancement than a man.

Are women better able to manage than men? 70% of those interviewed say so and believe women are the best leaders. There are many reasons given. Women are better communicators (62%), better organized (60%), have a better understanding of their employees’ needs (55%), show more empathy (55%) and are more disposed to question their own approach (54%). To a lesser extent, better instinct was cited by 39% of respondents and greater involvement in the company’s success by 25%.


Letting women grow


To offer better resources and more opportunities to women, more flexible working conditions are still highly cited, although a little less than last year (60% compared to 65%). Other elements are becoming more and more important to allow women to more easily obtain supervisory or management positions. 53% of those interviewed feel that companies could do better in terms of skills development in mentoring and management for women; this figure has gone up 7 points compared to last year. 48% go even further by referring to programs specifically designed to let women acquire the skills needed for positions with responsibility. Finally, according to 52% of respondents, companies must focus on diversity in management and supervisory positions.


The opinions gathered in this survey show that there is still a long way to go for Canadian women to be recognized in the business world and have unhindered access to positions of responsibility. 3% of women think that there will be fewer opportunities for access to leadership positions in the next years, 46% believe there will be no change, and 52% feel that there will be more more. The results have changed little since last year but nonetheless show optimism, particularly among those under 35 years old, 55% of whom expect there to be greater representation of women in key company positions.

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