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Gender equality is good for business

03 March 2020

March 8th is International Women’s Day, a time to celebrate women’s countless contributions and achievements. It’s also an opportunity to consider how advancing gender equality can help businesses succeed and grow our economy.

While the number of women entering business, politics and the skilled trades is greater than ever, women still face far too many barriers to succeeding in a number of fields. These barriers aren’t just holding women back – they’re holding back our economy and preventing us from harnessing Alberta’s full economic potential.


The case for more women in business

When it comes to the economic benefits of advancing gender equality, the research is compelling. Studies show that high-performing businesses tend to have more women in leadership roles, while companies with high levels of gender and racial diversity produce returns above their industry’s average. In short, companies with higher numbers of women leaders consistently outperform their peers.

A 2017 McKinsey report quantifies this potential. It estimates that efforts to advance gender equality and increase women’s economic participation could add $150 billion to Canada’s annual GDP. While the economic benefit is undeniable, driving economic growth is just one of the advantages of a more gender equal society. From our ability to better address labour and talent shortages to the new ideas that come from diverse perspectives, we have much to gain from empowering more women to succeed.


Achieving progress will take a collective effort

How do we move forward, close the gender gap and seize the opportunities before us? One of the most important ways we can advance gender equality is to advocate for more women in senior leadership roles.

Whether it’s politics, academia or the corporate world, women are largely left out of the most senior positions. We see this in business every day. Women in Canada currently make up less than 5% of CEOs at publicly traded Canadian companies and hold only 18% of board positions – a figure that drops to 14% in Alberta. And while the ranks of women entrepreneurs continue to grow, only 16% of Canadian businesses – and less than 14% of Alberta businesses – are owned or led by women.

Progress has also stalled when it comes to increasing the number of women in sectors like science, technology, engineering and the skilled trades. These are specialized, well-paying fields that help grow our economy, and increasing the number of women would go a long way to reducing the gender wage gap. Women in Canada currently earn just 87 cents for every dollar earned by men – a figure that once again drops in Alberta, where it sits at 82 cents.

There is clearly much more work to do, and achieving meaningful progress will take a collective effort. The business community has a vitally important role to play, and that’s why the Edmonton Chamber is exploring ways to support and champion women in business through our advocacy efforts.

There’s no doubt that advancing gender equality would significantly boost economic outcomes for our province. Alberta is a leader in countless areas – this International Women’s Day, let’s add gender equality to the list.

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