Money & Career

Female execs in Canada reveal their biggest career obstacles

From being judged on their looks to finding work-life balance, Canada's most successful female executives reveal what makes them most vulnerable.

Young career woman waiting for a job interview

Photo: Masterfile

Judged by their looks, marital status, and age, women have a lot to overcome in the workplace — or so suggests a new survey of some of the nation’s top female executives and business leaders.

The study, which was conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of the human resources and staffing agency Randstad Canada, polled more than 501 female executives and business leaders to get a better sense of what women feel are the most significant obstacles to success at work.

An overwhelming majority of the women polled believe that looks and appearance greatly influence career prospects. More than 90 percent of the women felt this was an accurate statement. Women over the age of 55 felt this to be true in larger numbers than women under 35, however, indicating that many women feel less valued in the workplace as they age.

Not surprisingly, one of the biggest problems working women face is maintaining a balance between work and home — 61 percent felt this was a problem. Unfortunately, this stress may be made worse by their feeling that they are being discriminated at work for having a family at all. Nearly half (49 percent) of the women surveyed said they felt employers took into account the demands of their private lives and that this may impact career advancement.

One of the most divisive questions centred on how the sex of a superior affects career advancement. Half of the women polled felt that a female boss would impede their career advancement, while the other half said they didn’t feel that the sex of a superior made a difference one way or the other.

While there’s no sense of how these findings may improve what many women feel are unfair obstacles to their success, there are some heartening takeaways. Given the grief they endure simply to provide for themselves and/or their families, whether they’re in heels or Reeboks, women are proving themselves the tougher sex.

See how J.Crew’s Jenna Lyons finds her work-life balance here.

What do you think is the biggest obstacle women face in the work force? Tell us in the comment section below.