IWD 2024: Inspire inclusion through gender-equitable promotion practices

Friday, March 8th is International Women’s Day (IWD), a global day to acknowledge, highlight, and celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This year, IWD’s theme is #InspireInclusion, which “encourages everyone to recognize the unique perspectives and contributions of women from all walks of life, including those from marginalized communities.”

Along with a number of other critical areas of focus, one of IWD’s 2024 key pillars is “the promotion of diversity in leadership and decision-making positions”. While great strides are being made with respect to gender equity in the workplace, there are still many barriers to women (particularly those belonging to underrepresented, equity-deserving groups) in leadership roles.

Statistics on women in leadership positions

Despite the fact that women make up just over half of Canada’s population, Statistics Canada indicates that only 35.6% of management roles and 31% of senior management roles are held by women. This is significantly lower for women of colour, representing only 6.2% of management and leadership positions.

The more recent (October 2023) McKinsey & Company Women in the Workplace report indicated that, in 2023, women held 40% of manager roles and 23% of C-suite roles. Women of colour, however, represented only 6% of those. These numbers are based on a survey of more than 270,000 employees across Canada and the US.

As far as industries are concerned, the highest representation of women in leadership roles (in 2021, according to a LinkedIn survey) was in education (55%), followed by wellness & fitness and health care (51%), and public administration and media (50%).

What are the myths that perpetuate gender inequity in the workplace?

Although representation by women in leadership positions is increasing, as the statistics above show, there’s still a significant lag behind men, particularly when race and other factors come into play. While progress is slowly coming, there’s a long way to go to reach parity and many of the long-standing myths play a part here. As noted by McKinsey in partnership with LeanIn.Org, the primary myths include:

  • Women are increasingly less ambitious; in fact, more and more so, it’s the opposite.
  • The glass ceiling is the biggest barrier to advancement; in reality, it’s the ‘broken rung’ (meaning less women are being promoted into management roles, so there’s a gap in the necessary steps to move into leadership roles).
  • Discrimination and bias (in the form of microaggressions and beyond) no longer occurs against women in the workplace; in actuality, they continue to occur in both subtle and blatant ways and have an ongoing, lasting impact.
  • Women are the drivers and benefactors of flexibility; in fact, people of all genders would like more flexibility in how and when they work.

Inspirations for inclusion: influential women in leadership

We believe that every woman doing work that she’s passionate about is inspiring – whether in leadership roles or not. And, when woman break through the many obstacles to positively impact their communities, lead groundbreaking research, and/or make history, we’re especially enthusiastic! There are countless examples of women doing exactly that, and, while women don’t have to be working at this level to be driving forces for change, we include a few stories below to help inspire inclusion:

  • Claudia Goldin – She won the Nobel Prize in 2023 for her research on the history of the pay gap, and “for having advanced our understanding of women’s labour market outcomes.” As of 2023, she is one of 64 (compared to 894 men) Nobel Prize laureates.
  • I. Stephanie Boyce – Among many other notable achievements in the inclusion space, she is the first woman of colour to be the President of the Law Society of England, Wales.
  • Tabatha Bull – Tabatha is Anishinaabe, a proud member of the Nipissing First Nation, the CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, and is committed to helping rebuild and strengthen the path towards reconciliation and a prosperous Indigenous economy. She was named one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women in 2023.

How employers can build gender inclusive workplaces

To build gender inclusive workplaces and support women’s movement into leadership roles, employers need to examine several crucial areas. As highlighted by the ‘broken rung’ concept noted by McKinsey & Co., one key aspect is how promotions are carried out. Very often, men are evaluated/considered for promotions based on what they may bring to the table (i.e., potential) whereas women are evaluated on what they do or did (i.e., performance). Not only does that narrative need to change, the whole system does. LeanIn’s research noted that, while 90% of the organizations they surveyed track representation of women in leadership roles, only two-thirds specifically track gender relating to promotion. Employers can play a key role in intentionally focusing on these areas.

Refer to our 2023 post for further recommendations on how employers and leaders can build gender inclusive work cultures.

“We need to reshape our own perception of how we view ourselves. We have to step up as women and take the lead.”


Jouta’s HR Consultants can support you to Inspire Inclusion in your workplaces.