Gender Equality in Canada

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Flag of Canada
Population (in Mil.) 34.75
Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB) 1,832.72
Sex Ratio (m/f) 0.99
Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m) 1.050632911
Fertility Rate 1.58
Estimated Earned Income (f/m) 0.85
Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m) 60
Women in Parliament (in %) 24.7
Human Development Index 11/187
Social Institutions and Gender Index /86
Gender Inequality Index 11/186
Gender Equity Index 9/168
Women’s Economic Opportunity Index 9/128
Global Gender Gap Index 20/68
More information on variables


Although women in Canada are outnumbering men in terms of educational attainment at secondary and university level, they still face a glass ceiling in the labour market and higher tertiary level. Canada has a relatively high participation rate of women in the labour market, and there are increasingly more women employed full-time (courtesy of chid-care policies and maternity leave provisions) but this has not translated in equality in pay. With one of the largest wage gaps between men and women amongst OECD countries, women in Canada are still far from reaching equality in the workplace.

Social Institutions

The Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) measures gender-based discrimination in social norms, practices and laws across 160 countries. The SIGI comprises country profiles, a classification of countries and a database; it serves as a research, policy and advocacy tool for the development community and policy makers.

The SIGI covers five dimensions of discriminatory social institutions, spanning major socio-economic areas that affect women’s lives: discriminatory family code, restricted physical integrity, son bias, restricted resources and assets, and restricted civil liberties. The SIGI’s variables quantify discriminatory social institutions such as unequal inheritance rights, early marriage, violence against women, and unequal land and property rights.

In the 2014 edition of the SIGI, Canada was not classified in the SIGI due to lack of full dataset. It has lower discrimination in restricted access to resources and assets and higher discrimination in restricted civil liberties. Read the full country profile and access the data here:


Canada was among the first countries to sign CEDAW. The 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms enshrines the principles of gender equality in employment, public life, and education in Part I, section 15. Section 28 of the Charter also reinforces the principle of gender equality (Baines 2005). These principles are also reflected in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the 1998 Multiculturalism Act, which introduced measures to protect and promote the rights of aboriginal women and foreigners.


The gender employment gap for highly-educated women in Canada was around 10% in 2000, which is one of the lowest rates in the OECD. Labour force participation of women in Canada in 2005 was around 72%, Women accounted for two-thirds of the 1.3 million increase in the Canadian labour force during the 1990s. There is no major variation in the
labour force participation rates for women at different stages of family building because employment is often combined with rearing children. Canada has one of the largest Wage gaps in the OECD between men and women working full-
time. Earning differentials between males and females are slowly narrowing in Canada, although the gap remains at 30%. The differences in occupational choices and the relatively high incidence of part-time work among women relative to men negatively affect their wages.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2003, although women are over-represented in certain disciplines, e.g., they constitute over two-thirds of graduates in the humanities, arts, education, health and welfare, they are scarcer in engineering, computer science and other technology-related fields. There were no technological fields in the top three growth disciplines among female university graduates in 2000. Research has also shown that differences in work history and job tenure act to depress women’s earnings. Childcare provision throughout the country is not consistent and higher-income families (in Quebec, notably) are more likely to use child care than low-income families, partially due to insufficient child care places.


There are as many women as men with university degrees, however there is a declining female representation among post-graduate students: 27% of doctorate students, for example, are women. Moreover, females continue to account for much smaller shares of full-time enrolment in mathematics and science faculties. In 2001-02, women made up only 30% of all university students in mathematics and physical sciences, and just 24% of those in engineering and applied sciences.

In 2001, in the age range  of 20 to 24 , 14% of women, compared with 8% of men were university graduates, while 24% of these women, versus 17% of men, had a certificate or diploma from a community college. 26% of women in this age range had not gone beyond high school, compared with 36% of males. Indeed, 19% of men aged 20 to 24, versus 13% of women, had never attended high school.

Political Empowerment

Women won the right to vote and stand for election in Canada in 1921. In the 2011 elections, 76 women (24.7%) were elected to parliament, a record number and record percentage of MPs. (For more information, see Women in Parliament)

Organizations Working on Gender

There are many Canadian organizations working on promoting gender equality, both in Canada and Overseas.

In Canada, the Status of Women Canada (SWC) is a federal government organization that "works with federal agencies to ensure that gender dimensions are taken into account in the development of policies and programs - by conducting gender-based analysis and supporting research". To learn more about the SWC, you can visit

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) "is Canada's lead agency for development assistance, with a mandate to support sustainable development in developing countries in order to reduce poverty and to contribute to a more secure, equitable, and prosperous world..... All initiatives in Canada's aid program make gender equality considerations explicit, and a wide range of [Canadian funded] projects directly address gender-based issues. To learn more about CIDA, you can visit

There are also several non-governmental, educational and research organizations (please feel free to add examples) that promote gender equality in Canada. Canada also has private organizations such as Gender Equality Incorporated (GEI) that support efforts in Canada and overseas to promote gender equality. GEI works with government, non-government, corporate and other sectors to ensure that Canada's vision and commitment towards gender equality is realised. To find out more about GEI you can visit


  • OECD, Developing Highly Skilled Workers: Review of Canada(2005).
  • OECD, Babies and Bosses: Reconciling Work and Life. Canada. (2007), [1]
  • CEDAW, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Combined sixth and seventh periodic reports of States parties. Canada (2007)
  • Statistics Canada, Women in Canada: A Gender-Based Statistical Report. FIfth Report. (2005)
  • Parliament of Canada, Women in Parliament (10 May 2011)"
  • Baines, Beverley. "Section 28 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: A Purposive Interpretation". Queen's Univ. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-04; Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, Vol. 17, pp. 55-80. (2005). Available at SSRN:

In the news

The Women, Business and the Law

Where are laws equal for men and women?  

The Women, Business and the Law report presents indicators based on laws and regulations affecting women's prospects as entrepreneurs and employees. Several of these indicators draw on the Gender Law Library, a collection of over 2,000 legal provisions impacting women's economic status. This report does not seek to judge or rank countries, but to provide information to inform discussions about women’s economic rights. Women, Business and the Law provides data covering 6 areas: accessing institutions,using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court. Read more about the methodology.

For detailed information on Canada, please visit the Women, Business and
the Law Canada


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