New report shows many women don't feel on par with men in the workplace

Maureen Coulter comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on December 13, 2015

Jennifer Slemmer, instructor of the bioscience technology program at Holland College, didn't think she would end up in the science and technology industry. She switched gears in university after taking a psychology course that changed her life.

© Heather Taweel/The Guardian

Canadian women feel they are being unfairly held back

Canadian women feel they are being unfairly held back because their employers worry about their family commitments.

The 2015 Women Shaping Business Study by Randstad Canada showed that the 1,005 Canadian working women surveyed felt there were still gender inequalities in the workplace.

Nearly three-quarters of Canadian women are working in roles below the management level, according to the report. And almost 50 per cent of those surveyed felt the single biggest factor for them not moving up to senior roles was because their employer feared their absence due to family obligations.

"I think we have closed the gap a little bit, but not as much," said Faith Tull, senior vice-president of human resources at Ranstad Canada. "There is still the perception that if you are a woman, you are going to have these pulls that will take you away from the work."

Tull noted that inequality is still out there even as more men are taking parental and child-care leave.

"Women should not be painted with the brush that they cannot be committed because they have all these things to do. We all have these things to do."

Another key finding in the survey shows only five per cent of women in the workforce are employed in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field.

When participants were asked, 44 per cent felt the No. 1 barrier that prevented them from choosing a career in STEM is the stereotype that it's a male-centric field. The five per cent of women who do work in the field also felt this way the case and voted higher at 57 per cent.

"While they have the skills qualifications and they want to get in, the barrier remains that there is some stereotypes that they need to overcome," said Tull.

About 27 per cent said they would have pursued something in the STEM field if they had the right support or guidance.

Jennifer Slemmer, instructor with the bioscience technology program at Holland College, is one of those women in the field. She said that while there are many more women graduating from programs in the sciences, those numbers don't translate into upper management levels.

Last year's graduating class of the program at Holland College consisted of 14 women and one man.

"The proportion definitely doesn't carry through," said Slemmer. "When you are thinking about why are those women not moving forward, I think sometimes they just really want a job."

Slemmer said within the teaching faculty at Holland College she doesn't feel undervalued because of her gender but she feels this is something that happens commonly for women who are in a lower entry-level position in the field.

Slemmer said women are often expected to be three times better than their male colleagues.

"If you perform equally, somehow you are still viewed as less. In order to be viewed equally, you are putting in more work."

Tull said companies need to better integrate responsibilities with work and home life for all workers. She says companies should offer options, like the flexibility to work from home by telecommuting.

Some things women in the survey said that kind of flexibility would help make senior positions more attainable. They would also like to receive more support from male colleagues or managers, have a better work-life balance or flexible work arrangements and have more female leaders demand equal opportunity for promotions within an organization.

To view the full survey results, visit http://www.randstad.ca and follow the links.

maureen.coulter@theguardian.pe.ca

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