Challenges, Opportunities, and Support for Women in the Workplace
In June 2012, Randstad Canada invited women from Canada’s leading businesses to discuss the realities of women advancing into managerial and executive roles. Topics discussed included how far women have come in the workplace, challenges and opportunities still to come, and how women can become an even greater part of Canadian businesses.
Challenges and Obstacles
According to the majority of participants, balancing work and family is the biggest challenge for them to overcome in their career. Most participants were working long hours and were still expected to carry much of the family responsibilities at home. Other challenges and obstacles mentioned included outdated perceptions of women in managerial and executive roles, the lack of career opportunities, and the lack of female mentoring.
Balancing Work, Family, and Personal Obligations
Since balancing family and work life were seen as the biggest obstacles, it’s important to understand exactly what it means. Women in the workplace, and especially those in managerial and executive positions, must carefully plan when or if to raise a family. Although such decisions affect the careers of both men and women, it usually has a greater effect on women’s careers. Since managerial or executive role usually involve busy and demanding work schedules, this often makes balancing family and personal life a difficult endeavor. The good news is that a majority of women have been able to juggle their career, family, and personal obligations successfully.
Sources of Inspiration and Support
Obtaining a managerial or executive position within an organization can be a long and arduous journey. In order to stay on the right path, women often find different sources of inspiration and support to help mould them into high-ranking positions. Such women often find that personal goals or passions are their biggest source of inspiration. Other factors include a desire to be self sufficient, financial security, and an interest in obtaining managerial or executive experience. Overall, it seems that women in managerial/executive positions are more motivated by an internal desire to succeed, and are influenced less by external factors.
Equality opportunity in Canada has come a long way, but still has further to go. Regarding salaries, a large majority of women felt there were either moderate or large differences between what earned compared to what women earned in similar roles. There is a perception of a similar gap when it comes to promotional opportunities. A large majority felt there was a moderate to large difference in opportunities for women compared to men; while the rest felt there was a small or even no difference in opportunities. A majority of women also felt that men were given more important decision making opportunities, more frequently given the best jobs, tasks, and projects, and also given more travel opportunities.
Changes Supporting Women in the Workplace
Apparently there is still work to be done to provide equal opportunities for women in managerial and executive roles. But significant changes have been made. There are now more women business leaders in Canada than ever before. Other changes include better work-life balance, more flexible working arrangements, and more career opportunities in general.
Another option an organization can provide is mentoring or sponsorship. The idea is to provide a junior member with constant guidance throughout many functions of their job. By doing so, the employee being mentored can learn how to outperform expectations and manage internal politics and policies. Unfortunately, a large majority of women said that their organizations have not provided them with a mentor/sponsor to guide them throughout their career. However, it seems that younger women (between the ages of 18 – 34) have been given more of an opportunity to have a mentor or sponsor than of those aged 35 – 55. This suggests that the concept of mentorship is slowly becoming a more viable option for women entering the workplace.
While progress continues to be made, there are obstacles that must be addressed to allow for an equal representation of women in the senior ranks of Canadian businesses. However, there are many opportunities for Canadian organizations to promote women leaders to do very well in today’s business environment.
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