Knowledge Center

Women in the Workforce: Canada


Canada's Population Is Both Growing and Aging

Canada's population growth is higher than that of any other Group of 7 (G7)1 nation, including the United Kingdom and the United States.2

As of July 1, 2016, women represented slightly more than 50% of Canada's total population (32,286,400).3

Canada is facing demographic shifts due to its aging population.

  • In 2016, almost one in six Canadians were seniors, i.e., aged 65 and older (16.6% of Canada's total population).4
  •  In 2016, Canada's population included more senior women (17.8% of the total population of women) than girls aged 14 and younger (15.5%).5

  • The number of senior women is projected to continue rising in future decades, while that of girls is projected to remain relatively stable.6

Today, there are more retirement-aged people (5564) in Canada than people entering the workforce (1524).7 

  • By 2031, nearly one-quarter (24%) of the total female population is projected to be aged 65 or older, up from 17% in 2014.8

Canadian Women Are Becoming More Diverse
  • As of 2011, 19% of all Canadian women and girls were visible minorities (3.2 million).9
  • By 2031, the percentage of women visible minorities may be as high as 31%.10
  • Aboriginal women's population grew at four times the rate (20%) of non-Aboriginal Canadian women (4.8%) between 2006 and 2011.11

More Canadian Women Are Single Today Than 30 Years Ago12

In 2011, 56% of women 15 and older live as part of a couple, down from 60% in 1981.13

  • Of women aged 15 and older, 44% were not living as part of a couple, up from 40% in 1981.14

Labour Force

More Canadian Women Are Working, but in Lower-Paying Jobs

In 2016, women aged 15 years and older represented nearly half (47.7%) of the labour force compared to 37.3% in 1976, an increase of close to 30%.15

  • In 2011, more than 45% of employed Canadian women worked in one of 20 low-paying occupations, including retail sales associate, administrative assistant, and cashier positions.16 
  • In 2015, full-time employed women earned on average about 10% less than men.17
  • Mothers earned 15% less than men and 5% less than women without children.18


Parity Remains Elusive for Women in the Private Sector, but No Longer in the Public Sector19

Seven Canadian provinces have employment equity policies for public workers. As a result:20

  • In 2015, 54.0% of legislators and senior government managers and officials were women, up 17.2% from 36.8% in 1987.21

  • However, only 25.6% of senior managers in the private sector were women.22

  • Currently, just seven of the 249 companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange's main index have a woman CEO.23

  • Women held just 25.0% of board seats in 2016.24 

  • Norway, France, and Sweden have the highest percentages of women on their boards.25   

  • Women comprise just 43.0% of the Senate and 26.3% of the House of Commons.26

Women's participation rate in business and finance increased more than 44% from 1987 (38.3%) to 2009 (51.2%).27

2016 Occupation28 % of Women
All Management Occupations 34.8%
Senior Management Occupations 37.0%
Specialized Middle Management Occupations 46.7%



Canadian Women Are More Educated Than Ever29

Women account for more than half of university graduates.30


  • Women earned 52.7% of university degrees (including bachelor's degrees and higher) in 2011.31

  • Younger women have a higher share of STEM degrees than older women, but overall, men continue to hold the majority of STEM degrees.32

  • Women between the ages of 25 to 64 made up approximately one-third (32.6%) of all recipients of STEM degrees.33


Additional Resources

Catalyst, Catalyst Accord: Women on Corporate Boards in Canada (2012).

Catalyst, Quick Take: Visible Minorities in Canada (2016).

Anna Beninger, High-Potential Employees in the Pipeline: Maximizing the Talent Pool in Canadian Organizations (Catalyst, 2013).

Osler, Diversity Disclosure Practices 2018 – Women in Leadership Roles at TSX-Listed Companies (2018).



How to cite this product: Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in the Workforce: Canada (September 7, 2017).