A traffic light on Bay Street in Canada's financial district is shown in Toronto on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. A new report says a culture of inequality continues to persist in Canada's capital markets and the brunt of it is felt by women and people who are racialized, Indigenous or identify as LGBTQ2S+. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Inequality in capital markets sector continues to hurt women, BIPOC and LGBTQ: report

Inequality in capital markets sector continues to hurt women, BIPOC and LGBTQ: report

TORONTO — A culture of inequality continues to persist in Canada’s capital markets sector and the brunt of it is felt by women and people who are racialized, Indigenous or identify as LGBTQ2S+, a new report says.

According to a study of 600 Canadian finance workers conducted by Women in Capital Markets in 2019 and released Wednesday, only half of women believed they are treated equally and have the same access to opportunities as other genders at their firm and just one-third thought their company is free from gender bias and that the promotion process is fair and objective.

Nearly 60 per cent of men said their workplace was free from gender bias, a rate double that of women, and 75 per cent of men believed harassment wasn’t an issue at their employer.

“For corporate Canada, we have a lot of work to do and the most frustrating point is how far we have to go with the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of colour), LGBTQ community and women more generally. We just have miles to go,” said Camilla Sutton, the president and chief executive of Women in Capital Markets.

The study revealed that Black women were the least likely to say they were treated equally by their firm and manager, and the least likely to perceive they have equal career opportunities.

They were also most likely to report being afraid for their personal safety at work.

“I don’t walk in these women’s shoes in the capital market or finance sector, but this really concerns me and it should really concern leaders of such firms that Black women feel this way,” said Paulette Senior, the president and chief executive of the Canadian Women’s Foundation.

Data also showed that more than half of people identifying as LGBTQ2S+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or two-spirited) in Canada’s capital markets industry refrained from talking about their personal lives at work for fear of others making assumptions about them, and this group reported the lowest satisfaction with their employer’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusion.

The report also revealed that concerns over pay disparities in the sector are ongoing.

Only 34 per cent of women surveyed believed they were paid equally to other genders, despite there being equal pay provisions in the Employment Act, Sutton said.

“When I talk to leaders, all of them really authentically guarantee to me that they are paying their women equally and are frustrated by that,” she said.

“Maybe it’s a perception gap. Maybe it’s a realistic representation of the pay gap. Or maybe the truth is somewhere in between, (and) the people need to be much more transparent.”

Her organization’s report provides pages of suggestions for how companies can work toward fixing diversity and inclusion problems.

The recommendations include ensuring pay equity, requiring a diverse slate of candidates when hiring, establishing an ombudsperson office to deal with complaints of harassment and implementing representation targets with clear timelines.

Senior suggested that capital markets firms look at implementing better strategies to eradicate the pay gap, address child or elder care issues their workers face and deal with harassment at the office.

She says now is the time to act because she has heard of women leaving their careers because they’re frustrated with a lack of action from companies turning a blind eye to problems.

“Just because you don’t see the problem because you’re not experiencing it, doesn’t mean it does not exist,” Senior said.

Sutton is crossing her fingers that these messages are heeded by companies in financial services, who often outperform other sectors when diversity is measured broadly but still have work to do.

She hopes the report will also dispel some myths about women’s goals and needs.

The study found women and men are equally ambitious with 67 per cent of both genders saying they aspire to reach the executive level or C-Suite in their careers and 72 per cent of women and 63 per cent of men saying they expect a promotion in the next five years.

When asked to rank the importance in their careers of development opportunities, compensation, title, work/life balance and enjoying their job, 15 per cent of men and 14 per cent of women rank work/life balance as most important — an affront to the common perception that women value family responsibilities more than men.

The study also showed that more than half of men and three-quarters of women believe there are enough qualified women in the talent pool, but almost 25 per cent of men believe a lack of qualified women is the reason their workplace isn’t gender balanced.

“I hear repeatedly that ‘I’d love to hire women, BIPOC, but I just can’t find talent’ and I think that the line of thinking really doesn’t hold water anymore and we need to push beyond that,” she said.

“The talent might not be there but not in the same network as more traditional talent and this is not about lowering the barriers.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published October 28, 2020.

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

Business

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