Women in the workforce: How do Canada and the U.S. stack up?

Click to play video: 'Trump and Trudeau meet with women business leaders at White House' Trump and Trudeau meet with women business leaders at White House
Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump held a roundtable meeting with women business leaders from Canada and the U.S. as part of Trudeau's visit to Washington – Feb 13, 2017

During their first meeting, U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced their plan to partner in an effort to boost women in the workforce, acknowledging the key role female participation plays in economic growth.

“We need policies that help keep women in the workforce and to address the unique barriers faced by female entrepreneurs — and they are unique,” said Trump, who opened the meeting by noting that he had employed several women as executives in his companies prior to becoming president.

“We need to make it easier for women to manage the demands of having both a job and a family and we also need to make it easier for women entrepreneurs to get access to capital.”

Trudeau recalled meeting female business leaders on tours across Canada, saying this endeavour is not “just about doing the right thing, but understanding that women in leadership can be a very powerful leverage for success for business, for communities and for our entire economy.”

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WATCH: Prime Minister Trudeau and President Trump walk and talk outside of White House

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Trudeau and Trump walk and talk outside of White House – Feb 13, 2017

As it stands, the landscape for women in the American and Canadian workforces is often not on even ground when compared to that of men.

Here’s how the two countries stack up:


After winning the 2015 election, Trudeau named 15 women and 15 men to his cabinet, marking the first ever gender-balanced cabinet in Canadian history. He’s also managed to maintain this ratio through subsequent cabinet shuffles.

The prime minister’s thinking behind this was, in his words, to have a front bench that “looks like Canada.” And he came close: in 2016, there were 0.98 males to each female in Canada, according to an estimate from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook.

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READ MORE: Here’s a look at Donald Trump’s (mostly white, male) cabinet choices

Trump’s white man-dominated administration, on the other hand, looks nothing like the U.S. in terms of its male-to-female ratio. In 2016, there were 0.97 males to every female in the U.S., according to the CIA’s numbers.

Assuming all of Trump’s nominees are confirmed, 14 men and two women will make up his cabinet (that’s seven men to each woman).

There’s a slightly better breakdown in the cabinet-level positions, which include the White House chief of staff, intelligence directors and ambassador to the United Nations, for example. In those offices, there are six men and two women, for a ratio of three men to each woman.

WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls meeting with Trump ‘very productive’

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PM Trudeau calls meeting with Trump ‘very productive’ – Feb 13, 2017


While Trudeau’s cabinet is a parity, the same can’t be said for Canadian businesses. In Canada, women accounted for 35 per cent of all managers and only 32 per cent of senior managers, according to a report released last week from Catalyst, a non-profit organization working to increase and accelerate female representation in the workplace.

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READ MORE: Gender quotas: Who else has them and does Canada need them?

Going even higher up the ladder, women hold only 42 of the more than 525 “chief level” executive positions among Canada’s 100 largest publicly-traded corporations in 2016, according to that same report.

In the U.S., almost 40 per cent of females in the labour force were managers in 2015, the Catalyst report showed. And while the percentage of senior roles held by women (23 per cent) reached a record high in 2016, so did the percentage of U.S. businesses with no women at all in senior roles (31 per cent).

WATCH: President Donald Trump welcomes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the White House

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President Donald Trump welcomes PM Justin Trudeau to White House – Feb 13, 2017

Unpaid work and wage gaps

This goes back to Trump’s statement above about making it easier for women to manage the demands of having both a job and a family.

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Household chores, groceries and child care are jobs that are essential for maintaining a functioning home, but they don’t pay. In the U.S. and in Canada, women spend more time on unpaid work than men, who tend to spend more time working for money, according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

READ MORE: ‘Because it’s 2015’: Trudeau’s gender-equal cabinet makes headlines around world

In Canada, women spend an average of 4.2 hours per day on unpaid work, compared to 2.7 hours for men; and women spend about 4.5 hours on paid work per day, compared to an average 5.7 hours for men, according to the OECD data.

The data compiled for the U.S. are very similar, where women spend about four hours daily on unpaid work (men spend 2.5 hours) and four hours on paid work daily (men spend 5.4 hours).

READ MORE: Feds may impose gender quotas on corporations if numbers don’t improve

While Canadian and American women take on more unpaid work and, consequently, work fewer hours in a week, they are also earning less than their male counterparts.

Women in Canada are paid less than men in 469 of the 500 occupational categorise Statistics Canada tracks, according to a 2016 report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. That includes full time, year-round jobs with women who have the same experience and education as their male co-workers, the report states.

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In the U.S., full-time working women earn on average 78 cents for every dollar a man earns, according to a White House site on equal pay, archived from the Obama administration.

What Trudeau and Trump propose

The pair announced the creation of a Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, a joint initiative meant to help businesses owned by women as a way to contribute to economic growth, competitiveness and the integration of the two economies.

The council will be made up of 10 female executives — half from Canadian companies and the other half from American companies.

The Prime Minister’s Office told The Canadian Press the council will recommend ways to remove barriers to increasing competitiveness for women entrepreneurs, as well as tackle issues affecting women in the workforce — including those in senior leadership positions.

With files from The Canadian Press

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