Despite saying that they are committed to gender equality and equal access to opportunity, Canadian employers are falling short of the mark when it comes to making that commitment real, according Mercer’s When Women Thrive 2020 Global Report.
According to the global research, which polled the senior leaders, HR executives, and employees of Canadian companies of all sizes, both Canadian respondents and those worldwide overwhelmingly state that their organizations provide women equal access to promotion and advancement (81% of Canadian respondents, compared to 79% globally). However, they seem slow to take the concrete steps necessary to ensure that their organizations are places where women can, in fact, thrive.
“Gender equality has evolved into a global imperative, and organizations are taking actions to make a difference,” said Martine Ferland, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mercer. “However, as women continue to face challenges of unequal senior level representation and limited opportunities for career development and advancement across industries and geographies, there is still much work to do to achieve gender balance.”
This is true not only in absolute but also in relative terms: in key indicators of commitment to workplace gender equality Canada is lagging the rest of the world.
“When women thrive, Canada thrives, and yet we see that Canadian employers aren’t making advances to ensure that their organizations are places where gender equity is a fact of life,” said Jaqui Parchment, CEO of Mercer Canada. “Canadian employers must do more to make their stated commitments to diversity and inclusion a reality. That starts with a commitment from every level of leadership, a robust approach to measurement and accountability, and ensuring that your promotion pipeline is truly equal opportunity.”
Insufficient commitment to gender equality
A commitment to workplace equality requires more than buy-in from the very top. It also requires buy-in from every level of management. Canadian organizations fall short in this regard, as a significant gap exists between Canada and the world at almost every level.
At a senior level, 54% of Canadian organizations say that their executives are actively involved or engaged in Diversity and Inclusion programs and initiatives, compared to 66% of organizations worldwide. This is not far behind the rest of the world and it shows commitment from Canada’s business leadership to improving gender equity.
However, Canadian employers reported that only 35% of their middle managers and 30% of front line managers are actively involved in diversity programs (compared with 53% and 46% globally), while only 28% of Canadian employers reported that their Board members are actively involved (compared with 57% globally). Creating an environment where women can thrive requires active engagement at every level of an organization, and moving the needle in a meaningful way in Canada will require much higher levels of commitment.
Are we measuring properly?
What gets measured gets managed – and when it comes to measuring their performance in terms of gender equity and pay equity, Canadian businesses have not moved beyond a compliance mindset. While 70% of Canadian organizations say that pay equity is part of their organization’s compensation philosophy, they are not doing enough to make it a reality.
Only 34% of Canadian organizations go beyond the minimum legal requirements and apply robust statistical analysis – such as multiple regression – to determine their pay equity gaps, 21 percentage points below employers in the rest of the world.
Similarly, although 82% of Canadian employers say that their organization’s pay equity analysis addresses both base pay and incentives, only 34% have a formalized remediation process to address any pay equity risks –10 percentage points below the rest of the world.
True progress on diversity and inclusion also requires target setting and accountability, and this is another area for improvement: only 31% of Canadian employers set formal, quantitative goals or targets for Diversity & Inclusion outcomes, compared to 50% globally.
Following through on equal opportunity
Canadian employers are vocal about their commitment to equality of opportunity – 81% of respondents say that women have equal access to the specific roles or positions that are more likely to lead to advancement into senior management or leadership.
However, to ensure that they are succeeding in their efforts to provide equality of opportunity and equality of representation, Canadian employers will have to do more. Specifically, they will have to track the right metrics – and so far, few do.
Only 44% of Canadian respondents said they track hiring, promotion and exits by gender and career level – critical to ensuring that women are in the ‘promotion pipeline’ –14 percentage points below the global average.
Additionally, only half of Canadian organizations (50%) say that women are equally as likely as men to move across business units and/or geographies –21 percentage points below the global average. This puts women at a serious disadvantage when it comes time to competing for promotions, leading to an imbalance at the top – where the most important decisions are made.
Equality in Health and Financial Wellness
There are opportunities to advance equality in both Canada and the world by applying a gendered lens to health benefits and retirement savings: neither Canada (6%) nor the world (25%) conduct analyses to identify gender-specific health needs in their workforce. Even fewer - 4% in Canada and 9% globally – measure the financial wellness of employees by gender, even though ensuring workforce wellness requires looking at each employee’s specific needs, and those needs have been proven to differ substantially by gender. It is clear that both in absolute and relative terms, more must be done to ensure that Canadian workplaces are environments where women can thrive – and that Canada can reap the rewards that come from unlocking the productivity and potential of half of its workforce.
About Mercer Canada
Mercer believes in building brighter futures by redefining the world of work, reshaping retirement and investment outcomes, and unlocking real health and well-being. Mercer’s more than 25,000 employees are based in 44 countries and the firm operates in over 130 countries. Mercer is a business of Marsh & McLennan (NYSE: MMC), the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people, with 76,000 colleagues and annual revenue of $17 billion. Through its market-leading businesses including Marsh, Guy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman, Marsh & McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit www.mercer.ca. Follow Mercer on Twitter @MercerCanada.