Photographer: Reynard Li/Bloomberg
Bringing more women into the workforce and paying them on par with men could add $150 billion to Canada’s economy by 2026, roughly equivalent to the size of the country's financial services sector, according to McKinsey.
That level of growth would require creating 600,000 new jobs for females, 6 percent higher than current forecasts. Opportunity exists in the high-productivity commodities sector that drives Canada’s growth, where new technologies are making it easier to hire women who, historically, have held just 25 percent of jobs.
"Canada is amongst the global leaders in women’s equality," McKinsey analysts, including Sandrine Devillard in Montreal, wrote in the report. "However, progress toward gender parity has stalled over the past 20 years, and Canada must find new ways to keep pace."
At current rates, Canada would need between 30 to 180 years to close gender gaps across its industries. With the exception of higher education and political representation — boosted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s gender-equal cabinet — fewer Canadian women are breaking into managerial positions or science, math and technical professions.
Canadian women account for 51 percent of the country’s working-age population and hold 56 percent of all advanced degrees, but make up just 47 percent of the labor force and contribute 41 percent of total GDP. While that’s higher than the global average female contribution of 37 percent, French and Portuguese women contribute 43 percent and 47 percent to GDP, respectively.
Moreover, Canadian women also tend to work in less productive sectors. For instance, women make up 82 percent of workers in the health care and social assistance sector where average output per employee is $50,000 and 67 percent in education at $70,000. In contrast, only one in five employees is a woman in agriculture, forestry, and oil and gas with an average output per employee of $250,000, and in utilities with an average output per employee of $270,000.
Within firms, main bottlenecks for women are jumping from entry level to manager, where 64 women advance for every 100 men. For every 100 male directors who are promoted to vice president, only 37 women are. Achieving full gender parity could add $420 billion to Canada’s economy by 2026, according to the report.