A new report from Workforce Windsor-Essex recommends both employers and employees in the region take steps to lessen gender disparity in the workplace.
Positioning Women for Success – Windsor-Essex Needs Assessment Report was funded by Status of Women Canada and written in partnership with Ronna Hope Warsh Leadership Coaching and Consulting. It surveyed men and women from six organizations in the Windsor and Essex County area through a questionnaire and focus groups.
Heather Gregg, project coordinator, said she hopes the report brings some of the issues facing women to light so other employers in the area can consider the recommendations included in the study.
“It doesn’t happen everywhere in the same way, but we are hoping that our representative employers that we’re working directly with provide a good cross-section to gather that information,” said Gregg, the business outreach innovator at Workforce Windsor-Essex.
The organizations examined include Essex-Windsor Emergency Medical Services, Enwin Utilities, Green Shield Canada, KPMG, Victorian Order of Nurses and Windsor Regional Hospital.
Gregg said these workplaces were chosen because they collectively represent both traditionally male- and female-dominated sectors, both the city and county and both small and large organizations.
Confidence was one key theme the report looked at. When asked, 40 per cent of female respondents said they agreed with the statement “I am a leader,” which Gregg said stuck out the most of the report’s findings.
“That was a little bit discouraging to me, as leadership can obviously be based on perhaps your position or your position within the structure or hierarchy within an organization, but I think that leadership exists within all levels of an organization as well,” she said.
Also, 72 per cent of male respondents said they “will confidently speak up in meetings,” while 62 per cent of women agreed with the statement.
The 2011 National Household Survey, quoted in the report, found females make up 49 per cent of the local workforce, while 39 per cent of the total local female workforce is employed in a management occupation.
“Women are still feeling like they’re not quite as deserving as a man in the workplace when they may actually have better qualifications and more skills,” said co-author Ronna Warsh. “Part of it is women need to see themselves as being valuable and equal to men in the workplace.”
The report recommends employers look for opportunities to balance out female representation at the managerial level and consider professional development activities to aid with an employee’s learning.
Employees are recommended to improve their confidence by reflecting on their daily success and indicate specific goals for personal growth.
“We want to find ways that, based on the project, if there’s specific programming that could be developed, that we can sort of use that as a best practice to guide women who are looking for (development in the workplace),” said Gregg.
The report also found women have more motivation when they see another woman in a leadership role at their place of work.
When asked to assess the statement “I feel like workplace policies at my workplace limit women,” 80.2 per cent of all respondents – and 79 per cent of female respondents – said they disagreed or strongly disagreed.
However, several women in the study’s focus group sessions said they felt gender-specific language was still in use in their workplaces. Gregg said women are sometimes classified as “the ladies over in Y” and this language divides expectations between men and women.
“Clearly there are still comments that are made in a number of workforces that are not acceptable to some women, so I think it’s dependent on the employers to make sure they do some training with people, staff, to say these kinds of comments are not acceptable,” said Warsh.
The report was one part of a 30-month study ending June 2017. Gregg said the next step is to develop a plan and implement programs to address the unique needs of each of the six organizations.