We recently surveyed 1,000 Canadian working women across various sectors, locations and job positions within the workplace. The results clearly reveal that employers are not meeting female workers' expectations regarding diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB). 

On the positive side, our survey shows that one third of employed women believe their employers are taking action on DEIB issues. However, it also reveals that 50% of the female workforce feels that either their employers' actions are not powerful enough to make any meaningful difference (25%), or their employer is taking no action on DEIB issues (25%).

These statistics mean that one in four women have seen no employer action to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce. These results are quite startling, considering 82% of Canadian organizations announced plans to make gender equality a top priority in 2019. 

Certainly, the global pandemic can take some of the blame for the lack of action regarding DEIB-related issues. After all, as the pandemic hit, employers were forced to focus on other issues, such as supply chain disruptions, transitioning to remote work and Covid-related shutdowns. Unfortunately, programs pertaining to building equality in the workplace were often put on the back burner during the pandemic.


With markets beginning to stabilize and workplaces starting to reopen fully, employers can once again make commitments to improving diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in their respective workplaces. However, to take actions that result in meaningful change that can alter women's perspectives, employers must first understand the most important issues facing Canadian female workers. 

Fortunately, the results from our survey can provide insights into how working women in Canada currently perceive employers' performance regarding DEIB issues and what issues are most significant to them moving forward. 

employers' performance on DEIB issues

Working women appear split on their views as to whether employers are performing well on DEIB-related issues or not. About one-half of the women we surveyed believe that their employers are taking at least some action on issues, such as:

  • mental health support
  • gender equality at senior level positions
  • support to help working mothers and caregivers maintain a healthy work-life balance
  • diversity of women of colour at senior level positions
  • support of members of the LGBTQ community in senior-level positions

Additionally, nearly one in four working women believe their employers are also taking at least some action to support people with disabilities and non-native speaking workers. 

Unfortunately, not all women agree. In fact, 3 in 10 working women believe their employer is taking little to no action on nearly every DEIB topic listed above, including mental health support, gender equality and support for working mothers and caregivers. 

While these results show that employers are making some progress, they also reveal that there is still a lot of work to do regarding building and supporting a diverse workforce. 

what programs do working women want?

Working women face a multitude of challenges in the workplace. First, on average, women receive only $0.76 for every $1 their male counterparts earn. While this gender salary gap is improving, progress has been slow. 

Secondly, women are significantly underrepresented at senior-level positions. This lack of representation is due, in part, to the fact that women earn promotions at a much smaller margin than men. Moreover, recent research shows that women are 30% less likely to achieve promotions from an entry-level position to a management role, and 60% less likely to be promoted from a manager position to a senior-level role. 

Finally, women often handle as many duties at home as they do in the workplace. For example, studies show that women are more likely to be responsible for household duties, such as laundry, cooking and managing the family schedules, than their male partners. Additionally, women by overwhelming margins were tasked with homeschooling their children during the pandemic. 

It makes sense for women to want policies that make it easier to balance their work and personal duties effectively. Our survey results prove this to be the case. 

According to our survey, working women prioritize paid time off (73%) and flexible work options (70%) over all other benefits. In fact, greater access to paid time off and flexible scheduling is more meaningful to working women than having empathic managers (46%) and having the ability to effectively set boundaries between their work and personal responsibilities (40%).

However, it's important to note that working women under 34 (45% age 18-24, 47% age 24-35) are more likely to prioritize setting boundaries between work and personal responsibilities than older women (35% age 35-44, 33% age 45-50). 

Employers can make great strides in changing working women's perception by developing a benefits package that focuses on giving employees greater access to more paid time off for various reasons, including child and elder care, illnesses and mental health issues, and flexible work options. 

value of public commitments

In recent years, there has been a growing trend for organizations to take a public stance against workplace inequality and make commitments to prioritize change within their own organizations. 

While taking a public stance is certainly a good first step, the lack of follow-through by some companies is getting working women's attention. 

According to our survey results, between 15% and 17% of working women in Canada believe employers are talking about important DEIB-related issues, such as mental health support, gender and racial equality at the senior executive level, and support for working parents, but they've yet to take any meaningful action. This lack of action may be a contributing factor in why the majority of working women we surveyed don't find these types of commitments to be very meaningful. 

In fact, our survey results show that only one-quarter of working women consider public commitments regarding reducing the gender pay gap and increasing the equity of pay for underrepresented groups to be one of the most important programs for potential employers to offer. Additionally, only 15% of the women we surveyed find public commitments regarding increasing gender and racial equality at the senior level very, or the most, important. 

It's not that these issues aren't forefront in the minds of women. Rather, they're looking for employers to take meaningful action towards bridging the diversity gap in the workplace. This factor is why women prioritize policies that help them break down some of the barriers they face, such as increased time off and remote work options.

It's time for employers to do more than just take a public stance against workplace inequality and to follow these statements up by taking actionable steps to improve diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging at work.

want to learn more about gender and equality in the workplace?

Check out the Empowering Women section of our website for more resources about bridging the diversity gap in the workplace.

women in the workplace