Child care: A social barrier to equality for women in senior management

The presence of women in senior management, and leadership positions has stalled in Canada in recent years. [1][2] Despite progress towards gender equality in the workforce, men continue to dominate leadership positions. [1][3] It is estimated that women currently occupy 35% of senior management positions in Canada. [4][1] Men are twice as likely to hold senior management positions than women, and 1.5 times more likely to hold middle management positions than women. What is holding women back from sharing equally in leadership positions?


The traditioOB-KM064_juggle_DV_20101015131743nal division of labour has had women responsible for domestic duties, leaving the men unencumbered to enter the public sphere. [5] In this model, many working women cannot enter into the public sphere because of childcare responsibilities. For some, being the primary childcare provider may not allow them the time necessary to build a career to the senior management levels. For others, the financial burden of child care can be a major barrier. It is estimated that child care costs now range from $600 -$2000 per month depending on the region, with the highest costs in our largest cities. [6][7]

Quebec is the first province to have a publicly funded childcare program in Canada. The program, implemented in 1997, has resulted in major economic and social benefits including reduced poverty, increased employment, and economic stimulation. [8][6] In 2008 alone, the nachildcare21.jpeg.size.xxlarge.letterboxprogram was recognized as being responsible for 70,000 newly employed mothers. [6] As a result, Quebec has seen child poverty rate reduced by half, the number of single mothers on social welfare reduced by half, and their median after-tax incomes increased by 81%. [6] As well, Quebec has seen a major increase in women’s representation in leadership roles. Overall women now accounting for 31.2% of the senior positions in Montreal, but the progress has been quite unequal: from near parity in government appointments to one in three major firms in the private sector having no women at all in senior management.[9]

Although many are quick to point out the financial costs associated with implementing a childcare strategy, a study conducted by Pierre Fortin and two academics from the Université de Sherbrooke determined that for every $1.00 which was spent in funding for universal child care, Quebec received $1.05 in return in the form of higher taxes paid by working women, and lower spending on welfare.[8] While the results of this program speak to the success of women’s equality in Quebec, the same cannot be said for other Canadian provinces.

The burden of child care acts as a societal limitation on women entering and participating in the public sphere; as the financial costs select which women participate in the workforce, and the limitations of available childcare influences how those women participate. Therefore, inequality will persist between men and women in the public sphere until key social and economic issues are addressed. As seen in the Quebec model, implementation of a childcare system is not only a step in the right direction in addressing women’s inequality, but beneficial to the society as a whole.

Danielle Parrell


Resources and Works Cited
1. “Women Still Missing In Action From Senior Management Positions In Canadian Organizations.” The Conference Board of Canada. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

2. Bekhouche et al. “The Global Gender Gap Report 2013.” World Economic Forum. (2013). Web. 17 Mar. 2014.

3. Grant, Tavia. “Few women in leadership roles in Toronto, study finds.” The Globe and Mail.  17 Mar, 2014.

4. Macfarland, Janet. “Canadian cities falling behind in placing women in top jobs.” The Globe and Mail.  Web. 17 Mar. 2014.

5. Pomeroy, Claire. ” Redefining Public and Private in the Framework of a Gendered Equality.” Knowing the Body: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Sex and Gender. Third Set of Web Papers. Haverford College. Dec (2004): n.p. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.

6. Anderson, and Kim Mackrael. “Better daycare for $7/day: One province’s solution for Canada.” The Globe and Mail.  Web. 17 Mar. 2014.

7. Baluja, Tamara. “Today’s modern parent: Daycare poor, with little to save.” The Globe and Mail. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.

8. “Public spending on public child care more than pays for itself.” Rethink Childcare. CUPE, 2013. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.

9. “Few women, visible minorities among top decision makers.” Channels. McGill University,  Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

Graphics and Photos

1. Silverman, Rachel Emma. “When Ambition and Reality Collide.” 2010. United Artists/Everett Collection. Wall Street Journal. Web. 31 March, 2014.

2. “Women Still Missing In Action From Senior Management Positions In Canadian Organizations.” 2009. Statistics Canada. The Conference Board of Canada. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

3. Monsebraaten, Laurie. “Quebec’s child-care scheme pays for itself, economist.” 2011. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

4. Suzanne Gagnon et al, “Women and Visible Minorities in Senior Leadership Positions: A Profile of Greater Montreal” Second CURA Report of Diversity Leads, McGill University, 2013.





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