New study reports advancing gender equality could add $150 billion to Canada’s GDP in next decade

A new study released today from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) and McKinsey & Company Canada predicts that advancing gender equality could add $150 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2026. That’s six percent higher than business-as-usual GDP growth forecasts over the next decade.

In one of the most comprehensive reports to date, “The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in Canada”, MGI and McKinsey & Company Canada size the economic potential of greater gender equality, map the existing gender gaps, and analyze results from their new workplace survey.

The $150 billion addition is equivalent to adding a new financial services sector to the economy. Each province stands to gain between 0.4 and 0.9 percent each year, with the most potential growth in British Columbia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec.

“Canada is among the global leaders on gender equality, but its progress has stalled over the past 20 years, especially in the workplace. For instance, women’s representation in the labour force, in high-quality STEM occupations, in management, and among business owners has either improved minimally or not improved at all. At current rates, these gender gaps would take three decades to almost two centuries to close,” said Andrew Pickersgill, Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company Canada. “Narrowing gender gaps at work and in society is a $150 billion opportunity and one of the biggest levers of growth that Canada has today.”

Achieving this economic opportunity would require Canada to add more women to high-productivity sectors like technology and raise women’s participation in the labour force, each of which would account for 42 percent of the impact. Another 16 percent would come from increasing women’s working hours.

MGI and McKinsey Canada found that the gender gaps are most significant in seven indicators: women represent 35 percent of managerial positions; 28 percent of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates; 23 percent of STEM workers; 20 percent of small business owners; and 29 percent of elected officials; but they take on 64 percent of unpaid care work in the home and represent 80 percent of single parents. Results are largely homogeneous across provinces and cities, pointing to common priority areas for action for the nation and for organizations.

Despite making up 53% of degree holders in Canada, women are a minority of corporate leaders. The workplace survey of 69 Canadian companies representing more than 500,000 employees found that while women make up 45% of all entry-level employees, only 25% of vice presidents and 15% of CEOs are women. The data suggests that while women aspire to promotions at a similar rate, and actually leave at a lower rate than their male counterparts, they lack the same opportunities as men. Women predominantly occupy staff positions that provide fewer paths to leadership. They are also half as likely as men to have had a senior leader support their promotion.

“This research highlights best practices in Canadian companies that others can emulate. But initiatives need to be implemented holistically and effectively, and measures to tackle gender imbalance in companies only work if they are considered to be a true business imperative. Changing attitudes takes time, and persistence is vital,” said Sandrine Devillard, a Senior Partner in McKinsey’s Montreal office.

The study recommends five priority areas of action in Canada: removing barriers against women entering STEM fields; enabling more women to be entrepreneurs; reducing gender inequalities in child care and unpaid care work; amplifying women’s voice in politics; and reducing gender bias and reshaping social norms.

“By improving their own gender diversity and female representation at senior levels, corporations can not only improve their bottom line, but also contribute to the economy and society of Canada,” said Tiffany Vogel, an Associate Partner in McKinsey’s Toronto office.


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