Equal Participation of Women Will Add $150 Billion to Canada’s Economy
Minister Maryam Monsef
Minister for Women and Gender Equality & Minister of International Development
Department for Women and Gender Equality
Maryam Monsef is Canada’s Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Minister of International Development, and the Member of Parliament for Peterborough-Kawartha. In 2015, she became the first Afghan-Canadian to be elected to Canada’s Parliament, one of the youngest people to ever be appointed to a Ministry, and the first Muslim to serve in Cabinet.
The Department for Women and Gender Equality (WAGE) is the department of the federal government focused on promoting equality for women and their full participation in the economic, social and democratic life of Canada. It works to advance equality for women by focusing its efforts in three priority areas: increasing women's economic security and prosperity; encouraging women's leadership and democratic participation; and ending violence against women and girls.
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1- Improving gender equality is not only the right thing to do, but it is the smart thing to do. It is good for the Canadian economy: the equal participation of women will add $150 billion to Canada’s economy over the next decade. It also significantly improves companies’ bottom lines.
2- About 17% of small businesses in Canada are owned by women and the federal government’s goal is to double the number of women-owned businesses by 2025. The Women Entrepreneurship Strategy allocates $1.65 billion towards helping women start and scale up businesses.
3- Providing and celebrating female role models is crucial to inspire the next generation of Canadian women leaders.
My call to action, especially for women entrepreneurs, is to take advantage of the $1.65 billion Women Entrepreneurship Strategy. Our job is to help women grow their businesses. We want to provide you with access to financing, talent, networks and expertise. To Canadian business leaders: do you have a labour shortage in your company? Do you want to increase your bottom line? Would you like to see us get an additional $150 billion added to our economy? The Government of Canada wants to work with you and we want to do that by increasing the participation of women in your company and adding to the diversity of ideas and potential. There is lots the public and private sector can achieve on the issue of gender equality by working together.
How will greater gender equality impact Canada’s economy?
The equal participation of women will add $150 billion to Canada’s economy in less than a decade. Gender inequality costs Canadians lots of money in various ways. Firstly, domestic violence and sexual assault alone costs Canada $12 billion a year. Secondly, the gender wage gap is 88 cents on the dollar. Not only is this unfair, but it also means there is less money in the pockets of women and their families, and less consumption in the Canadian economy. Thirdly, Canada is facing labour shortages, especially in high quality and well-paid fields like tech where women make up only a quarter of the workforce. These are talent-driven industries that are missing out on the diverse and top-class talent that women bring. Gender equality will increase the bottom line for companies and generate more wealth for women, their families and Canada as a whole.
How are Canada’s public and private sectors performing in terms of breaking the glass ceiling for women, and what more must be done?
I believe in choice and ensuring that everyone, regardless of their gender, various identity factors or where they live, has the opportunity to choose the roles they play in family and in society. Canada has made progress when it comes to making leadership positions more inclusive. Just 27% of our seats in Parliament are filled by women and only about 40% of provincial legislators in Canada are women. Today, one in five Canadian mayors are woman. We need to collect and analyze data over time to keep track of progress and understand where the gaps are and how we close them.
We need to bring more diversity and have more women appointed to positions that the federal government is responsible for filling. We have a new open, transparent and merit-based selection process for Cabinet appointments. That has already resulted in more than 50% of our appointees being women. If you search online for ‘Government of Canada Appointments’, you fill find that the government is responsible for thousands of appointments to boards and agencies, and is always looking for qualified people with diverse perspectives.
Although we have made progress, Canada can do much more. We can lead by example and the Prime Minister did that when we appointed a gender-balanced cabinet. We can partner with and support those who are actively working to increase the participation of women and diverse voices in positions of leadership. We are partnering with organizations likeEqual Voice Canada through the “Daughters of the Vote” project so that we can bring Canada’s young women to Parliament. Young girls need to see and feel for themselves that they belong in these places of power and can succeed here. Female role models are important; if she cannot see her, she cannot be her. So, we should ensure that the stories of great Canadian women are shared and elevated. Last fall, we launched a gallery called ‘Women of Impact in Canada’ at the beginning of Women’s History Month. It tells the stories of women leaders in Canada throughout our history who have paved the way for the rest of us in a variety of fields, including STEM, the arts, politics, human rights and countless others.
Looking at the private sector, when boardrooms reach the threshold of 30% women, better decisions are made and the bottom lines improve. According to one study, companies where there is diversity of voices and women around the decision-making table improve their bottom line by 26%.
In terms of what we can do on these issues, I would address the following questions to Canadian business leaders: do you have a labour shortage in your company? Do you want to increase your bottom line? Would you like to see an additional $150 billion added to our economy? The Government of Canada wants to work with you and we want to do that by increasing the participation of women in your company and adding to the diversity of ideas and potential. Follow the example of Husky Energy; they partnered with the government and labour groups in Newfoundland to increase the participation of women in the construction sector. Our government invested over $300,000 in the project, Husky put in over $150,000. Together we are going to address the challenge posed by the 250,000 construction workers retiring in the next decade by filling those positions with highly qualified individuals – many of them women. There is lots the public and private sector can achieve on the issue of gender equality by working together.
How can we better equip and support Canadian women entrepreneurs?
We continue to count on women to lead businesses, scale them up and employ large numbers of Canadians. In fact, our goal is to double the number of women-owned businesses by 2025, and that goal is supported by the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy. About 17% of small businesses in Canada are owned by women. Through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, we are offering women support and financing to help them scale up their businesses and start up new ones. Canada is the only G7 country with a trade agreement with every other G7 country, and we are trying to help women entrepreneurs benefit from this. The Women Entrepreneurship Strategy also includes a mentorship component and conferences for ongoing development. We lowered taxes on small businesses and the Fall Economic Statement that Minister Bill Morneau tabled in the fall of 2018 is helping all entrepreneurs and job creators in Canada to create wealth and benefit from export opportunities.
My call to action, especially for women entrepreneurs, is to take advantage of the $1.65 billion Women Entrepreneurship Strategy. Our job is to help women grow their businesses. We want to provide you with access to financing, talent, networks and expertise.
Which sector of the economy needs improvement when it comes to female participation?
At the Department for Women and Gender Equality – formerly Status of Women Canada – my team and I partnered with the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) on an initiative designed to increase the participation of women in manufacturing by 100,000 in the next decade. Manufacturing is an important part of the Canadian economy and has been identified as one of its key growth sectors by the Finance Minister’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth. Right now, there is a labour shortage of over 41,000 jobs in manufacturing and we are trying to address that in a gender equitable manner.
What came out of the G7 in terms of action around gender equality?
First of all, the goal behind placing an emphasis on the issue of gender equality at the G7 Summit was to tap into the $12 trillion economic benefit that gender equality will provide for the global economy. The Prime Minister requested that gender be mainstream throughout the entire agenda. One outcome was that the gender equality discussion did not end with Canada because France has taken leadership on this issue when it assumed the G7 presidency in 2019. The other piece is that Canada is an international leader when it comes to gender equality. Other countries are joining us because they see that our approach is working.
I have personally benefited from an education after having been deprived of it for some of my early years. So, it was a significant point in my career when Canada and its partners signed the agreement to invest $3.8 billion in women and girls’ education. This is the single largest investment in the education of girls and women in crisis and conflict zones ever. Regardless of the political unrest and the violence that these women and girls are experiencing, they will have something that no one can ever take away from them: an education. This is a strong reminder of how Canada can work in partnership with international leaders to make a difference in the lives of people beyond our borders.