March 8, 2018 7:00 am
Updated: March 12, 2018 10:48 pm

Canadians overestimate number of female CEOs in ‘peril of perception’: Ipsos poll

FILE - The poll found that Canadians are overly optimistic especially when it comes to the proportion of female CEOs they think run the top companies in the world.

Caiaimage/Martin Barraud via Getty

Thursday marks International Women’s Day — the first since the #MeToo campaign has become a dominant symbol of social change.

Despite media coverage, an exclusive Ipsos poll shows world trends that prove we still have a long way to go before we hit equality.

The poll found that Canadians are overly optimistic especially when it comes to the proportion of female CEOs they think run the top companies in the world.

READ MORE: Federal budget 2018 aims to increase workforce participation of women

Of the 27 countries in the survey, sexual harassment is the top issue for women and girls at 32 per cent, followed by sexual violence at 28 per cent and physical violence at 21 per cent.

In Canada, respondents ranked pay equality as the No. 2 issue instead, with sexual violence coming in third.

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Even though Canadians appear to think it is still a major issue, we also appear to be wearing rose-coloured glasses when it comes to the pay gap.

Canadian respondents guessed it will take 25 years to close the gap, Americans say 50, while the Brits are less optimistic and estimated it will take 100 years.

In reality — based on the current rate of progress — it will be another 217 years before the pay gap is closed around the world.

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Canadians are also overly optimistic when it comes to female CEOs.

When asked what proportion of the top 500 companies worldwide are run by women, respondents guessed 17 per cent.

In fact, only three per cent of CEOs are women.

Ipsos vice-president Jennifer Macey called this a “peril of perception.”

She said that while Canadians recognize there is a lack of equity, the poll shows we don’t collectively know to what degree.

READ MORE: Winnipeg female CEO speak out on challenges, successes

“They’re estimating 17 per cent, that is very low. So they are estimating a low percentage,” Macey explained.

“It’s just not as low as three per cent. Perhaps it is that people can’t fathom that it’s really low. Perhaps they don’t want to admit it.”

Professor Merridee Bujaki, director of the Centre for Research and Education on Women and Work at Carlton University, explained possible reasons for the discrepancy between perception and reality.

“Certainly, part of it is just so they see the women around them and they extrapolate wrongly,” Bujaki explained to Global News.

“Or they see a few specific women CEOs and then they, you know, they misinterpret how common that actually is.”

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She also said there is a lot of discussion in the media on the role of women in the workplace – like Ontario’s new rules on publically traded companies – which can skew the perception.

Canadians are more accurate when it comes to female representation in politics, though. Respondents said 28 per cent of MPs are women, when in actuality, it is 26 per cent.

These perceptions can lead to another major statistic found in the poll, experts say.

When asked if they agreed with the statement: “When it comes to giving women equal rights with men, things have gone far enough in my country,” 35 per cent of respondents did agree — even though the data shows otherwise.

Even though there are challenges, Macey says the numbers show we’re moving in the right direction.

“But movement takes time,” she explained. “It’s not going to change overnight.

“We’re bringing up the conversation but it’s not a part of everyone’s everyday lives as much as it might be a part of media or social media.”

This Ipsos poll surveyed 19,428 adults in 27 countries via the Ipsos Online Panel system between Jan. 29 and Feb. 9, 2018. Approximately 1,000 Canadians were part of the survey. The results were weighted to better reflect the composition of the adult Canadian population, according to census data. The precision of Ipsos online polls are calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/- 3.5 percentage points and of 500 accurate to +/- 5.0 percentage points.

*with files from Grant McDonald 

READ MORE: Women in Parliament by the numbers

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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