Women’s workplace contributions aren’t always visible: study

In male-dominated sectors, women often feel isolated or held to an unreasonably high standard, since mistakes or failures may be attributed to gender, according to a new study by Randstad Canada.

To mark International Women’s Day, Randstad Canada surveyed more than 1,250 Canadian women about how employers can support and foster female leadership, as well as diversity and inclusion.

The study found women’s contributions aren’t always visible. In Canada, women hold 35 per cent of management-level roles, with that percentage dropping further up the corporate hierarchy. At the highest level, women hold only nine per cent of C-suite roles in Canada’s 100 largest publicly traded companies.

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“I think a really important [point] around this topic of innovation is, do organizations have a platform for innovation? Or is it more, ‘We want to have innovation in our strategic plan, but we don’t do anything with it,'” says Carolyn Levy, president of Randstad Technologies at Randstad Canada. “So it’s about what do you actually do to create that environment and make it authentic so it’s more of a cultural add instead of a cultural fit. It’s about circulating ideas with the ‘yes, and’ instead of saying ‘yes, but.'”

It’s about understanding more than just what’s on paper, adds Levy, and more than simply wanting to improve the diversity within an organization. “What’s the real meaningful connection behind that? It’s spending time as a leadership team to make sure you’re able to translate what you want to do, but also how you’re going to do it and how it will make an impact and a result. And that links into the organization’s bigger impact on the economy, as a whole.”

In the artificial intelligence sector, for example, the study found only 22 per cent of professionals are women, a gender gap three-times larger than other industries. In the future, soft skills will be in demand, noted the study, an area many women reported as their strong suit.

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“Women actually feel comfortable in the workplace and do want to innovate,” says Levy. “They feel they have the opportunity to do so now. So this is just giving them the platform to do it. In the past, we always thought women were risk-averse and they didn’t want to be the one speaking at the table. But now they’re saying, ‘Yeah, actually we do want to be there, and we do feel we have the voice.'”

Some of the ways organizations can help support female leadership, according to the study, is to challenge women’s unconscious biases; acknowledge that women have a distinctive set of values; support all-female collaborative platforms; and recognize women’s contributions.

“We want to make sure that we not only hear the voices to create awareness, but what are we going to do to actually start to practice and action things to drive change?” says Levy. 

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