Is Corporate Canada Leaving Women Behind?

December 3, 2013Imagine the reaction if Mike Babcock or Dan Church, the coaches for the men’s and women’s Canadian hockey teams, were to bench half the team when the Winter Olympics opens in Sochi in a few months. Hard to imagine we’d bring home a gold medal if they did.

So why aren’t we more outraged by the fact that half our population continues to be sidelined by Canadian business at a time when many of our global competitors are putting all their talent to work?

The latest report in Catalyst’s groundbreaking research into the experiences of high-potential women and men in the workplace reveals that young women are more than twice as likely as men to opt to work in the government, nonprofit, and education sectors, rather than in the corporate sector.

Perhaps the experience of women in corporate Canada offers an explanation:

  • Canadian women in the study made $8,167 less in their first jobs than men.

  • 72% of Canadian women in the study, compared with 58% of the men, started in entry-level positions.

  • Only 19% of those women who did take corporate positions received an international assignment, compared to 29% of men.

Worse, when we compare Canadian high potentials with those of other regions, both women and men in Canada are more likely to take non-corporate jobs immediately after graduation. And the ones who do join the corporate sector are less likely than their counterparts in Europe or Asia to receive international assignments.

Of course, it’s great that smart, talented women are dedicating their skills to shaping public policy, bringing innovation to social enterprises, or awakening young minds to the joy of learning.

But Canadian business and the Canadian economy also need those talents. Once people begin to develop a career path outside the corporate sector, it’s tougher to attract them into business. And less international experience means that young people are not developing the global competency that is critical to national economic performance.

It affects our economic game today, and it has serious implications for our future success. So let’s consider some things business leaders can do now to ensure our full team is ready and able to compete on the ice:

  • Consider highlighting how your company is socially responsible in your recruiting practices so you attract mission-driven, high-potential women early.

  • Recruit women back from the public sector in order to have more women role models who have experience in both the public and private sectors.

  • Consider what happens if women in your organization get fewer international assignments. What does it mean for the development of your talent? For your company’s global presence?

  • Encourage top talent, especially women, to stay in your company by providing development opportunities and career-advancing “hot jobs” (highly visible projects in mission-critical roles—e.g., jobs with profit-and-loss or large-budget responsibility—and international assignments).

  • Develop globally savvy business leaders by assigning more international roles to Canada’s high-potential women.

  • Leverage Canada’s extensive network of new Canadians (including foreign students) to forge relationships with the business community in their home countries, or build a global network of expatriates to help open doors, broker deals, and build connections.

Let’s make sure that Team Canada is scoring goals in more than hockey.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.