As American women grapple with gender equality, so do their Canadian sisters. Seventy-six percent of Canadian women believe there is no equality in the workplace, according to new consumer research called The Truth About Canadian Women. McCann Worldgroup Canada is performing a five-part study throughout 2018 on the changing roles of women in Canadian society, supported with a national survey conducted by Ipsos.
The first report is called Women and Work. It explores how women are shaping changes in the workplace, impacting the rules of behavior and the definition of success. According to Statistics Canada, 83% of women ages 24 to 54 are employed. “The most interesting thing about these numbers is the fact that so many see no equality” says Mary Chambers, chief strategy officer of McCann Worldgroup Canada.
She says the positive insight behind that data is women’s confidence to express dissatisfaction with the status quo. “That number probably would have been lower in the past because for one reason or another we were more accepting of the status quo,” says Chambers. “Now there’s this recognition of inequality and the confidence to call it out.”
Yet, sexist views persist about society’s value of women. Respondents said the top three attributes most valued in women by society are looks, family orientation and intelligence. For men it’s ambition, leadership and strength.
There is a bright spot in how men and women prefer to be perceived. When asked questions like if they’d rather be seen as kind or strong, content or ambitious, easy-going or decisive, men and women answered the same way and ranked them in the same order. “What we discovered is women and men really want to be perceived the same way,” said Chambers.
The study also includes several three-hour consumer workshops across key Canadian cities to discuss each topic, the agency’s role with consumers, and the expectations, demands and opportunities for marketers. McCann is conducting more than 40, one-on-one interviews with business and cultural leaders and hosting a series of dinners with women of influence across Canada.
“Historically we’ve been marketing to women but we haven’t been having meaningful conversations with women,” says Chambers. “Clients came to us asking for help engaging women and harnessing the power of women. They know that treating women like a niche target won’t work anymore. Instead our clients are looking for a meaningful role with women that will lead to business growth.”
Issues beyond work and home
The second report, called Roles in the Household, shows the imbalance of stubborn gender roles in the home. It found that 74% of men believe household chores are shared, while 40% of women believe they do all the work. Three more studies will come out later in the year. They cover gender stereotyping in advertising, how women feel about aging and how millennial parents are raising the next generation.
This comprehensive report was inspired by McCann’s 2016 landmark consumer research, The Truth About Canadians, conducted in partnership with Ipsos to understand what Canadians expect from modern brands. “It became clear through conversations with clients that you can’t treat the topic of women as a singular topic, so we dissected it into five themes,” says Chambers. The report kicked off in March on International Women’s Day and will conclude October 11 with International Day of the Girl.
Paths for change
The report includes recommendations for change. “For me, it’s about not treating men and women any differently in any aspect: the roles they get, the assignments they work on, the pay we give them. It should not be a factor in anything we choose to do as employers,” said Cheryl Radisa, vice president of marketing for McCormick Canada, in a study interview.
For the first study, participants agreed that to achieve equality, men and women need to work together. “That’s a common theme we’ve been finding about work but also about household and representation of women across the board,” says Chambers. “There’s a bit of a revolution happening and women are claiming their place in the world, but it’s not happening in the place of men, without men or at the cost of men. It has to be a collective movement as opposed to an ‘anti’ movement.”