October 15, 2013 4:16 pm
Updated: October 15, 2013 4:55 pm

Do looks matter to a woman’s career success? You bet, women say

Almost two thirds of women managers surveyed in a recent study say they believed women are better supervisors than men.

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Want that raise or promotion? If you’re a woman, that decision to start a family may have to be revisited. And you may want to keep up with what’s hot among workplace fashion trends.

At least, that’s the perception of what it takes for a woman to succeed in the corporate world according to none other than women themselves.

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Reinforcing, or at least echoing, some of the very stereotypes and trappings women in the workplace have seemingly fought for years to overcome, a new survey published Tuesday by HR firm Randstad shows that the vast majority of women believe looks as well as the pressure of balancing home lives against the demands of their careers are two of the biggest obstacles to getting ahead.

“Even now, today, women feel it’s still a hindrance for them,” Tao Qio, an executive with Randstad promoting the study, said.

In contrast, two thirds of women surveyed by Randstad say looks are a non-factor or very small factor in the success of male counterparts in the office.

A third perceived stumbling block for women – again, according to women managers – is having a female as their direct supervisor. The majority also cited a lack of a female mentor as a hindrance.

“Thirty percent of women feel that having a female boss actually inhibits their career more than it helps,” Qio said.

The poll, taken in August, relies on feedback from 501 senior female managers and execs from across Canadian companies from the biggest to the smallest.

Also of note, 62 per cent feel women make better leaders than men, according to the survey results.

“Again, this is just perception. But half the workforce is female, so certainly investment has to go into [improving] the experience of half your workforce, so they feel they’re getting a fair shake,” Qio said.

Perceptions about pay equity, meanwhile – a contentious issue where actual data has been able to show meaningful differentials between men and women – merits attention, Qio said.

More than nine in 10 women (93 per cent) in managerial positions in the study felt that they are still making less money than a man doing the exact same job, a number unchanged from the last time the survey was conducted last year.

As for major personal obstacles, child care ranks among the biggest, according to the survey.

“We have noticed in provinces where they have provided better child care [programs], like Quebec, we see fewer women seeing that as an obstacle,” Qio said. “So one of the key recommendations we have coming out of this study, is that government-sponsored or organizationally-sponsored programs [are] key if you want to put women on an equal footing.”

Below are some additional highlights from the study (graphic courtesy Randstad), while additional details can be found here.


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