Women’s representation & participation in the labour force

  • In 2014, women represented 47.3% of the labour force, up from 45.7% in 1999 and 37.1% in 1976.Footnote 1
  • Although the gap between men’s and women’s labour market participationFootnote 2 continues to narrow, women’s participation rate still trails that of men’s. The labour market participation rate for women over age 15 was 61% in 2014 compared to 70% for men of the same age.Footnote 3
  • The labour market participation rate for women aged 25 to 54 declined 0.8% from 82.4% in 2013 to 81.6% in 2014.Footnote 4
  • Aboriginal women’s participation rate was not significantly lower compared to the total female population (59.2% and 62.6% respectively).Footnote 5
  • In terms of occupation type, women aged 15 years and over were most likely to be employed in sales and service occupations (27.1%); business, finance and administration (24.6%); and education, law and social, community and government services (16.8%).
  • In comparison, men were most likely employed in trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations (25.5%); sales and service occupations (18.7%); and management occupations (13.9%).Footnote 6

Unemployment Rate

  • In 2014, the unemployment rate for women aged 15 and over was 6.3%; for men in the same age group it was 7.0%.Footnote 7
  • In 2009, for Aboriginal women 15 years and over, the unemployment rate was 12.7%, compared to 6.9% for non-Aboriginal women and 15.1% for Aboriginal men.Footnote 8

Employment Rate

  • In 2014, the employment rate for women aged 15 and over was 57.3% compared to 65.5% for men.Footnote 9
  • The employment rate for Aboriginal women in 2009 was 53.7% compared to 58.4% for non-Aboriginal women.Footnote 12

Part-time Work

  • Women are more likely to be in part-time work (i.e., less than 30 hours per week) and casual work (i.e., hours that vary from one week to the next).
  • Nearly 70% of part-time workers in 2013 were women, a proportion that has not changed significantly over the past three decades.Footnote 13


  • In 2011, women held majority ownership of 16% of small businesses; however, women are more likely to own small businesses than medium-sized ones. In 2011, women had sole-ownership of 14% of small businesses and only 4% of medium-sized businesses.Footnote 14
  • According to the BMO Financial Group, women-owned businesses currently employ over 1.5 million Canadians.Footnote 15
  • RBC Economics reports that, in 2011, the aggregate contribution of majority-owned women’s business was an estimated $148 billion.Footnote 16
  • In a 2012 study, 71% of Canadian women indicated that they would like to start their own business and 83% of them said having access to role models or mentors would be important to their success.Footnote 17
  • Aboriginal women make up 37% of all Aboriginal self-employed people, and 51% of Aboriginal-owned small- and medium-sized enterprises belong to women, either entirely or in part.Footnote 19


  • A growing number of women are self-employed. In 2009, nearly 1 million women, or 11.9% of all those with jobs, were self-employed, up from 8.6% in 1976.Footnote 20
  • Women accounted for 35.5% of all self-employed workers in 2009, up from 31.2% in 1990 and 26.3% in 1976.Footnote 21

Careers in the skilled trades and technical professions

  • Women’s employment is concentrated in the services sector; in 2012, 55% of all jobs in the services sector were occupied by women, but only 22% of all jobs in the goods-producing sector were occupied by women. Footnote 22
  • The concentration of women was particularly high in the health care and social assistance sector (82%), but particularly low in the construction sector (only 12%). Footnote 23
  • Women continue to have low representation in the skilled trades and other traditionally male-dominated professions. For example, in 2012, women held just 11.8% of construction jobs, 19% of forestry, fishing, mining, oil, and gas jobs, and 30.5% of agricultural jobs.Footnote 24
  • In 2011, women accounted for only 14% of registered apprentices,Footnote 25and were concentrated in certain trades, including as hairstylists (80%) and cooks (about 30%), with small proportions in most other trades. Women account for only 2% of carpentry apprentices, 1.9% of plumbing apprentices, and 1.5% of heavy equipment apprentices.
  • Overall, women represent roughly 5% of all skilled trades workers in CanadaFootnote 26 was $15,654, about $5,000 less than the figure for non-Aboriginal women and about $3,000 less than that of Aboriginal men, who had a median income of $18,714.
  • Despite this, more women registered in a number of skilled trades in 2011 compared to 2010, including as: heavy equipment operators (72 in 2011 vs. 36 in 2010); industrial electricians (279 in 2011 vs. 246 in 2010); and construction craft workers (258 in 2011 vs. 231 in 2010).

Income and wagesFootnote 27

  • The gender wage gap in Canada is related to the prevalence of part-time work for women and labour market segmentation, which tends to concentrate women in lower-wage occupations.
  • Women’s average annual earnings have been approximately 71% of men’s since the early 1990s. In 2011, women earned an average total annual income of $32,100 compared to $48,100 for men. This figure includes both part-time and full-time workers.
  • When factoring gender differences in industry, occupation, education, age, job tenure, province of residence, marital status, and union status, women’s annual wages amounted to 92% of men’s in 2011.
  • With respect to hourly wages, there has been a notable overall decline in the gender wage gap. In 1981, women aged 17 to 64 who were employed full-time had average hourly wages that were 77% of those of men. In contrast, in 2011, the corresponding figure was 87%.
  • There has been some progress in Aboriginal women’s incomes. For example, between 2005 and 2010, median total income for Aboriginal women aged 15 years and over increased from $17,044 to $19,289 (in constant 2010 dollars), even as a significant gap remains when compared to non-Aboriginal women ($24,842 in 2010) and Aboriginal men ($22,924 in 2010).

Women providing care

  • In 2010, the average total time women spent caring for children under 5 was 6.5 hours per day, while men spent just over 3 hours.Footnote 30
  • Quebec had working mothers who took some type of leave following the birth of their child. On average, the leave lasted 44 weeks.
  • Because Quebec has its own parental benefits program—the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan—almost all children (99%) had a mother who took some form of leave.
  • There has been steady growth in labour force participation among women with young children. In 2009, 64.4% of women with children under the age of 3 were employed, more than double the proportion of 27.6% in 1976.Footnote 31
  • Employed women caregivers of elderly or ill loved ones are more likely than their male counterparts to report negative employment consequences or the need to make workplace adjustments as a result of their caregiving responsibilities.
  • This is likely due, at least in part, to the fact that women are more often in intense caregiving situations (i.e., providing 15 hours or more of care a week).Footnote 32

Women on boards and corporate leadershipFootnote 33

  • Catalyst Canada found that in 2013, the percentage of women directors in FP500 companies sat at 15.9%. Among FP500 companies, 40% had no women directors in 2013, and only 26% of these companies have women CEOs in 2014.
  • In 2014, Catalyst began using a new benchmark for women’s board representation. As of October 2014, women represented 20.8% of board directors of companies on the Canadian Stock Index.

Government actions

Increasing representation of women on boards

  • Economic Action Plan 2012 announced the creation of an Advisory Council of leaders from the private and public sectors to promote the participation of women on corporate boards.
  • In June 2014 the Advisory Council released their final report, which included 11 recommendations to both the public and private sectors, including a recommendation of a 30% goal for the representation of women in governance positions by 2019. The Council also endorsed a ‘comply or explain’ approach to support board gender balance. This would require companies to indicate annually whether they have increased the representation of women on their boards, and if not, to provide a rationale.

Connecting canadians with available jobs

  • Economic Action Plan 2013 outlined the Government’s three-point plan to address challenges in connecting Canadians with available jobs by equipping them with the skills and training they need to obtain high quality, well-paying jobs through the: Canada Job Grant; Creating Opportunities for Apprentices; and Supporting Job Opportunities for all Canadians.
  • Economic Action Plan 2014 proposed creating the Canada Apprentice Loan through the Canada Student Loans Program to help apprentices registered in Red Seal trades with the cost of training and introduced the Flexibility and Innovation in Apprenticeship Technical Training pilot project.

Careers in the skilled trades and technical professions

  • Measures in Economic Action Plan 2013 and 2014 will contribute to increasing opportunities for young women to contribute to the economy, including supporting their entry into careers in sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics as well as the skilled trades where they are currently under-represented. This includes federal investments in financial support for those entering the skilled trades and employment support programs intended to provide youth with real-life work experience in high-demand fields.
  • The Group of Leaders on Women and the Economy was created in 2014 to explore opportunities to increase women’s representation within these fields.

Child care and taxation

  • The federal government has put in place a number of income supports to help families.
  • Most recently, the government announced the Family Tax Cut, a new non-refundable tax credit of up to $2,000 for eligible couples with minor children. The credit is based on the net reduction of federal tax that would be realized if up to $50,000 of an individual’s taxable income was transferred to their eligible partner.
  • Other measures include the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB), which offsets the costs of whatever form of child care parents choose; and the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB) that benefits low-income Canadians, many of whom are women. It supplements earnings through a refundable tax credit, and includes a supplement for persons with disabilities; and the Child Disability Benefit (CDB).
  • Economic Action Plan 2014 proposed enhancing access to EI sickness benefits for people receiving Parents of Critically Ill Children and Compassionate Care benefits, and launching a Canadian Employers for Caregivers Plan to help maximize caregivers’ labour market participation.


  • Economic Action Plan 2014 proposed funds to increase mentorship among women entrepreneurs and noted that the Minister of Status of Women will consult on how to increase the number of women entering into, and succeeding in, business. In addition, EAP 2014 announced an additional $40 million for the Canadian Accelerator and Incubator Program to help entrepreneurs create new companies and realize the potential of their ideas.
  • An Expert Panel and Advisory Council were created in the fall 2014. The Expert Panel held consultations with women entrepreneurs from across Canada in the fall 2014 and will report to the Minister on how to increase mentoring and championing. The Advisory Council will provide advice to the Minister on a Strategy to support women entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

Aboriginal women

  • Economic Action Plan 2013 confirmed $109 million over four years, 2013–2017, to improve the on-reserve Income Assistance Program to ensure that young recipients, including women, who can work have the incentives to participate in the training necessary for them to gain employment.
  • First Nations Job Fund (FNJF) provides personalized job training to young income assistance recipients, 18 to 24 years old, in participating communities to help develop skills to secure jobs.
  • Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy (ASETS) supports over 80 Aboriginal organizations throughout Canada that deliver skills training and support services to prepare First Nations, Métis and Inuit people for success in the workforce.
  • Skills and Partnership Fund (SPF) encourages Aboriginal organizations to create partnerships with government, business and community organizations to provide skills training and create job opportunities for Aboriginal people.

Immigrant women

  • In Budget 2013, the Government committed to support improvements to Foreign Credential Recognition processes and address demand for skilled workers in key occupations.
  • In July 2014, the Government announced ten occupations which will be targeted for improvements, including geoscientists, carpenters, electricians, heavy duty equipment technicians, heavy equipment operators, welders, audiologists and speech language pathologists, midwives, psychologists, and lawyers.


  • In Budget 2014, as a result of actions taken by the Government, seniors and pensioners will receive about $2.8 billion in additional annual targeted tax relief. In particular, since 2006, the Government has increased the Age Credit amount, doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the Pension Income Credit, introduced pension income splitting, and increased the age limit for maturing pensions and Registered Retirement Savings Plans to 71 from 69 years of age.

Source: Status of Women Canada