Report: Women, diversity are key to rebuilding Canada's economy

A new study from Ryerson University calls for greater support for women and diverse groups to help drive a successful rebound for the Canadian economy

Report: Women, diversity are key to rebuilding Canada's economy
Steve Randall

As the Canadian economy rebuilds, an essential element of success is supporting women and diverse groups according to a new report from Ryerson University.

These groups have been heavily impacted by the pandemic including a rise in unemployment and loss of income.

Even before the current crisis, women and diverse groups were earning less than the rest of the population, the report from Ryerson’s Diversity Unit notes.

While this has an effect on individuals, it is also damaging for productivity in Canadian businesses and reduces the pool of available talent.

For entrepreneurs, there are oversized challenges for the growth of small and medium enterprises.

"Not only are they, like other women, facing the crushing burden of childcare but they also have less access to the supports needed to survive,” said Nadine Spencer, CEO of the Black Business Professional Association. “Women led businesses tend to be smaller, newer and less well financed than those owned by men. Research shows that Black owned businesses are even more disadvantaged. We need targeted support for Black entrepreneurs and particularly Black women entrepreneurs."

The research found that women account for over 35% of self-employed Canadians but are majority owners of only 16% of SMEs with employees.

A recent report from RBC said that entrepreneurial confidence may be the key to Canada’s economic comeback.

Climbing the ladder
Women and diverse groups are also facing struggles to climb the corporate ladder to senior leadership roles.

"While we are making some progress with women on corporate Boards, reported at 25.3% of directors, the study highlights this doesn't hold true for racialized women, reported at just 1.2% of directors,” said  Zabeen Hirji, Executive  Advisor, Future of Work, Deloitte. “White women out-numbering racialized women on corporate boards in Toronto by 12 to 1. The talent is there, it is policies and practices that need to evolve. We need to cast a wider net."

The challenges are particularly evident in science and technology sectors (STEM).

Occupations within some of the high-growth and high-income sectors reveal the disparity of women trying to advance in STEM fields, generally filling lower-level jobs compared to their higher-level male counterparts.

However, women have made inroads into highly paid professions such as medicine and law.