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Canadian men, women differ on whether gender equality exists at work: poll

Shot of a group of businesspeople sitting together in a meeting. Getty Images

As countries around the world celebrate International Women’s Day, a new poll has found that when it comes to gender equality, men and women in Canada have different views about how it applies in the workplace.

The international poll conducted by Ipsos surveyed more than 20,000 respondents in 27 countries including Canada.

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When respondents in Canada were asked if men and women are treated equally in the workplace, 43 per cent agreed, a finding that was on par with 41 per cent who agreed globally.

But, the survey found that Canadian men were significantly more likely to agree that workplaces treat the genders equally at 54 per cent, than women who agreed only 32 per cent of the time.

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What’s more, 71 per cent of Canadians, including most women (77 per cent) and men (66 per cent) agreed that equality won’t be achieved in Canada unless men take action to support women’s rights.

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Jennifer McLeod Macey, vice president at Ipsos Public Affairs, called this finding “encouraging.”

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“Both men and women need to make these changes,” she said. “Perhaps men need to prioritize equality a bit better, stand up for women. Women need to lean in, support each other and really have each other’s backs and understand that most men and women need to promote gender equality in the workplace to make these changes that we’ve been working on for so, so long.”.

However, 36 per cent of respondents in Canada said they believe when it comes to giving women equal rights to men, things have gone far enough.

The opinion was more prevalent among men — at 44 per cent — than with women at 29 per cent.

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McLeod Macey said this finding was “very concerning.”

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“That is problematic to me,” she said. “Because while that is a minority, it is a big number of people.”

The survey also shed light on how Canadians perceive certain behaviours in the workplace, and if they are likely to be viewed as damaging to an individual’s career.

Respondents were asked about childcare, romantic advances from colleagues, prioritizing family, work hours and socializing outside of the office among other things.

In each case, Canadians agreed the behaviours were more likely to damage the career of a woman than that of a man.

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According to the poll, the behaviours perceived as most damaging to a woman’s career were having childcare responsibilities during the workday, rejecting a colleague seeking a romantic relationship and prioritizing family over work.

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Respondents were also asked if these behaviours had affected their career in the last five years, and revealed a disproportion between the genders.

The survey found 49 per cent of women compared to 25 per cent of men in Canada reported their career had been affected in the last five years by having childcare responsibilities during the workday.

Thirty-eight per cent of women, and 8 per cent of men said their career had been affected by rejecting a colleague who wanted a date or romantic relationship, and 45 per cent of women and 28 per cent of men said their career had been damaged by prioritizing their family over work.

READ MORE: Women in Canada earn less than men — even for the same job: Glassdoor

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According to McLeod Macey, these findings not only point to inequality in the workplace, but also to a larger societal issue of traditional gender roles and household economics.

“All these damaging behaviours, if you will, are things that have traditionally sat on women’s shoulders,” she said. “So having the childcare responsibilities in the workday, working part-time to juggle family and home, not being able to socialize outside of working hours because of family commitments. All of these things are the kind of things that women have typically struggled with more because of that balance of home and work, which, you know, when we look at history, women have been in the workplace for a shorter period of time.”

The survey also asked respondents how confident they felt about calling out instances of sexism and harassment.

McLeod Macey said she was “really excited” to see that Canadians outpaced their global counterparts when it came to a willingness to speak up.

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“Canadians are more confident to call it like it is,” she said. “Again, though, we have to point out that while Canadians are more confident than their neighbours across the world, men are still more confident than women. Women are going to think twice about standing up to someone because it could be damaging.”

She said the results show women are more comfortable doing so outside of the workplace with a family member or someone they have a relationship with outside of work.

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Overall, McLeod Macey said the survey’s results show that “there is till a long way to go” when it comes to gender equality, particularly in the workplace.

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“I think that’s the first thing that needs to be done,” she said. “It’s recognizing that this is still an issue and prioritizing that issue and putting that on everyone, and that means all men and women in the workplace, it means people of all different levels.”

She said there should be more mentoring in the workplace, among people of all positions, not just junior staffers.

“And there is a role for men to support and promote women,” she said. “And likewise and vice-versa.”

The Ipsos poll was conducted between Jan. 24 and Feb. 7, 2020 using an international sample of 20,204 adults aged 16-74 in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia Spain and Sweden. Adults aged 18-74 in Canada, South Africa, Turkey and the United States and adults aged 19-74 in South Korea. The sample consists of 1,000+ individuals in each Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain and the U.S., and 500+ individuals in each of the other countries surveyed. This poll has a credibility interval of +/-3.5 percentage points for countries where the sample is 1,000+ and +/- 4.8 points for countries where the sample is 500+.

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