Canada: Think Tank Touts Business Case for Gender Equity

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By Peter Menyasz

There is a strong business and ethical case for employers to improve gender equity in their workforces, according to the Conference Board of Canada. Employers that recruit and retain a diverse workforce through measures such as gender-based recruitment targets, bias training for interviewers, and mandatory diversity rules have access to a broader and deeper talent pool, the Ottawa-based private-sector think tank said April 19 in a new research report.

“Gender differences in labor market participation, career field, attainment of leadership roles, and earnings highlight an opportunity to better leverage the talent of all Canadians,” the report says. “Achieving gender parity has both public and private benefits for Canada, but will require concentrated efforts on the part of governments, employers, post-secondary education institutions, and other stakeholders.”

Diversity efforts must be championed by an organization’s leaders and must be incorporated into the organization's overall culture, not siloed or stratified, the report said. Leaders must collaborate with human resources departments to address obstacles, and middle management has an essential role in ensuring diversity policies succeed.

“Organizational leadership should launch a review of institutional contracting practices, collective agreements, and related policies to identify unintended impacts or implicit biases that may not be immediately obvious,” the report says.

Diversity training, however, isn’t enough to address organizational bias and discrimination, and employers should adopt “design-based” solutions such as the use of role models and mentorship programs and efforts to improve the representation of women in nontraditional careers such as engineering, medicine, and science, according to the CBC.

Employers should also make their workplaces more inclusive, the CBC said—for example, by offering flexible work hours, keeping women engaged during maternity leave, and providing opportunities to kick-start their careers when they return from leave. Initiatives must include targets and measures to gauge success, and progress toward the targets should be publicly reported, according to the report.

Canada has a 74 percent participation rate for women in the national labor force, two percentage points above the average in developed countries, but full-time labor force participation is only 73 percent, two percentage points below the developed country average and little changed in the past 20 years, the Conference Board said. The gender wage gap narrowed to 18.2 percent in 2016 from 23.9 percent in 2000, but Canada still ranks 13th of 16 countries on wage parity, outperforming only the U.S., Finland, and Japan.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Menyasz in Ottawa at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at

For More Information

The CBC report is available here.

For more information on Canadian HR law and regulation, see the Canada primer.

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