Bad News, Eh: In Canada, Progress For Women In Management Has Been Stalled for 22 Years

A major new report from Canada finds that the pace of women achieving senior-level management positions has flatlined. As the president and CEO of the organization that published the report, Anne Golden, put it: “It will take about 150 years before women and men are equally likely to reach middle management. And a century and a half is an eyeblink compared with the eternity it would take to achieve this benchmark in senior management.” 

The numbers in the report, from the Conference Board of Canada, will be familiar to Americans, too: Canadian women make up half the workforce, but less than a third of senior management positions. The report echoes a recent study out of Britain, which found that women are drastically underrepresented in positions of power there, too.

Even more strikingly — and depressingly — the proportion hasn’t changed over the last 22 years. Since 1987, Canadian men have consistently remained at least 1.5 times as likely to hold positions in middle management. At higher levels of power, the numbers are even worse for women. And the same is true in both government and private business.

In a piece about the Canadian report in The Ottawa Citizen, Golden blames three of the usual suspects: Men are more likely to study technical subjects that launch them into management, women step back from the most demanding careers to raise their families, and workplace culture remains male-dominated. Golden pins most of the blame on this third factor. Instead of the hackneyed old glass ceiling, she proposes a new metaphor for obstacles to women’s advancement: a labyrinth “with many twists and turns that women must navigate in the course of their careers.” Ask for directions!

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