March 8, 2024

By Rebecca Babcock

Today marks International Women’s Day (IWD), a day to not only celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, but a day that calls for action on accelerating gender parity. This year's IWD theme is #InspireInclusion – because “when we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, we forge a better world.” In recognition of this theme, the Smart Prosperity Institute (SPI) is reflecting on how we contribute to the understanding and valuing of women’s inclusion as we work on forging a stronger, cleaner economy that builds a better future for all Canadians.

To progress on women’s equality, it is imperative to broadly understand how women experience gender imparity. For instance, in the context of the workforce, it is widely known that women don’t make the same amount as their male counterparts. In fact, as of 2021 in Canada, full-time women employees make 90 cents to every dollar men make. It is known that women don’t hold an equal part of management or leadership positions; only about a third of women (35.6%) hold management roles, and 30.9% hold senior management roles. Women are also 30% less likely than men to get promoted out of an entry-level job. This is alongside the barriers they face obtaining childcare or the discrimination they experience after maternity leave, and amongst many other challenges outside of the workforce context, including access to healthcare, particularly for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women, to increased domestic violence after natural disasters. Across all areas, there are very clear reasons as to why individuals, organizations, and governments must act on gender parity. Furthermore, advocates are clear in their messaging about what broader concrete steps these parties can take to close the gender gap.

Yet, to ensure gender equality is experienced by all women across all contexts, it is important to understand how women experience gender imparity in specific contexts. The challenges experienced and the solutions provided may vary depending on the circumstances, and a one-size-fits-all solution may not impact specific subgroups of women. In fact, a one-size-fits-all solution may even negatively impact certain communities. SPI is able to contribute to a deeper understanding of the challenges women face and possible solutions within the scope of our work, which focuses on topics that are the most urgent opportunities for advancing a stronger, cleaner economy in Canada – from carbon offsets for farmers, to the skills needs of workers in clean growth industries, to building blue conservation economies. For instance, within the past year, we have been able to add to the discussion on important questions, such as: What challenges do women in forestry face in British Columbia? How can automotive companies in Ontario ensure women are supported in their roles? What is working for gender equality in other communities, such as in Northern Canada? What is the role of competition law in creating inclusive economic growth that benefits everyone in Canada?

Here are five snapshots of our work in this space from the past year that contribute to inspiring inclusion:


1) The PLACE Centre's blog post – Addressing Forestry's Skills Labour Shortage: Insights from Women in Forestry

This piece interviews three women working in forestry to better understand the challenges they face getting hired and working in the sector – from microaggressions to perceptions of women’s skills – as well as what businesses, managers, and individuals can do to address these issues.


2) The LUNA team’s report – Inuit-led Economic Development: An Overview of Nunavut’s Blue Conservation Economy

In this report’s discussion about the range of co-benefits offered by pursuing a blue conservation model for economic development, the authors highlight how this approach can improve mental health outcomes, particularly of young Inuit women, and promote equitable gender participation in the economy.


3) The Research Team’s policy brief – Leveraging Competition Law and Policy to Promote Inclusive Growth in Canada

While not specifically about gender equality, this policy brief explores how competition law, policy, and regulation in Canada can promote more inclusive growth (i.e. growth that enhances living standards for all people). It looks at economic inequity in Canada, the benefits of inclusive growth, and how Canada can work towards inclusive competition law.


4) The Skills Team’s blog post – A skilled, diverse, abundant workforce is what Ontario needs to capture the growing Zero-emissions Vehicle (ZEV) opportunity

This blog post explores three things Ontario needs to capture the full promise of the growing ZEV sector, including the need to diversify the workforce. With women only making up 9.5% of those employed in trades, transport, equipment operation, and related occupations in Ontario, the blog post highlights how women could be better supported in the sector, such as through companies providing better flexibility and infrastructure to accommodate for responsibilities often expected of women, like childcare.

5) The Skills Team’s suite of reports on the economic growth opportunities of ZEVs in Ontario, Plant-based Protein in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and Mass Timber in British Columbia (BC)

In the project ‘Closing Canada’s green skills gap: Identifying Canada’s green skilled workforce needs to reach our national 2030 climate target,’ the skills team produced nine reports looking at three sectors across Canada: ZEVs, plant-based protein, and mass timber.

  • Future-proofing the automotive workforce covers gender diversity issues, highlighting the barriers women face in entering or remaining in the workforce, alongside current attempts to rectify the situation. The Summary for Policymakers identifies the key recommendations for supporting equity-deserving communities, including women.
  • Preparing for plants explores the barriers women face in the male-dominated agriculture sector, including how an increasing rate of technological adoption will impact women, particularly women of colour and Indigenous women, due to sexist perceptions. It also provides a recommendation on how industry and government can better engage equity-deserving populations.
  • Making mass timber in Northern BC highlights throughout the report the importance of workforce diversification and how BC can empower underrepresented communities with skills training and job-ready learning to promote an abundant, skilled, diverse workforce that helps create the ecosystem necessary for BC to capture the mass timber opportunity.


In doing this work, SPI is promoting an understanding of the issues women face within specific contexts, and, in some cases, is putting forth solutions to address gender inequality within those contexts. Whether just identifying the challenges or putting forth possible steps that various stakeholders can take to address them, this work is helping advance the inclusion and equality of women across Canada. It is also important to recognize that more can be done to understand the challenges women face in the areas of SPI’s research and to identify how all levels of government, as well as other stakeholders, can act on addressing these obstacles and move the needle towards gender equality in Canada.