Industry Analysis

What are the Barriers For Career Advancement for Women and BIPOC People in Canada & Latin America?


In 2020, a many women face a glass-ceiling, but a woman of color faces a brick ceiling, perceived as unbreakable. Overall, Canadian women fare much better than the women of Latin America when it comes to advancing their careers. BIPOC face the same challenges that women do. This is such a diverse group that it is extremely hard to track usable and meaningful statistics that might promote change. While much progress has been made of late, the hidden biases of employers, biases they do not even realize themselves, prohibit true progress.

Canadian Women & Career Advancement Barriers

The Issue- Women Make Up Less Than a Third of Leadership Roles

  • In Canada, men and women are equally split at the entry level, even though there are gaps in certain industries. When it comes to career advancement, women account for less than a third of senior leadership roles at the VP level and above.


  • Less Likely to be Promoted: According to McKinsey & Company, women are 76% as likely as men to be promoted to manager and even less likely (64%) to be promoted to vice president. At the same time, women only make up 43% of external hires at the manager level and 34% at the VP level.
  • In Canada, men and women are equally split at the entry level, even though there are gaps in certain industries. When it comes to career advancement, women account for less than a third of senior leadership roles at the VP level and above.
  • Women are more likely to work in positions such as human resources and legal services, while the majority of men work in line positions such as general management, sales, and marketing (45% versus 33%). The latter positions usually have a more direct line to advancement.
  • Entry & Advancement in STEM Fields: The playing field is not equal in STEM fields. Early intervention programs are needed for girls to enter these fields.
  • Women at the management level and above are 2.5 times more likely to be the only person of their gender in a room at work.

Removing Barriers for Young Girls

  • Socialization– Toys and clothes reinforce traditional stereotypes from childhood. In a study, girls that played with Barbies saw fewer career options for themselves than girls that played with Mr. Potato Head toys. Starting early, by questioning these biases can create a generation of girls that see more opportunities for them.
  • Media Representation– Media often reinforces the typical girl stereotypes. In films, male leads outnumber female leads almost 3 to 1. When women are the lead, they are often objectified. We need to encourage children to use media to counter these stereotypes and create empowering messages.
  • Gender Bias– “By their teens, many boys and girls appear to have biases against girls as leaders, reports Leaning Out: Teen Girls and Leadership Biases, a study from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. When teen girls were asked who is more effective in specific professions, almost a quarter of respondents—23%—preferred male over female political leaders. Just 8% of girls preferred female political leaders, with 69% reporting no preference.” These unconscious biases and blind posts must be brought to light so we can become more aware. Initiating girl’s programs that empower leadership helps to correct these biases.

Reasons Why

Microaggressions- The Glass Ceiling

  • Daily, women feel less included in the workspace. Almost 60% report experiencing some kind of microaggression at work. Microaggressions are the “every day, subtle, intentional — and oftentimes unintentional — interactions or behaviors that communicate some sort of bias toward historically marginalized groups. The difference between microaggressions and overt discrimination or microaggressions, is that people who commit microaggressions might not even be aware of them. “
  • The Glass Ceiling was coined to explain these subtle obstacles that women face.
  • These microaggressions make women at the VP level report they are five times more likely than men to have to prove their competence. They are three times more likely to be addressed in a less than professional manner or to hear demeaning remarks.


Organizational Committment

  • Even though 80% of companies indicate that diversity is important, only 52% of women feel they are doing what it takes to make the situation better.
  • One of the main reasons this is failing is because the companies fail to set numeric targets, and furthermore they do not track these numbers in a meaningful way. The majority do not look at representation by business functions, differences in performance ratings, and gender pay gaps in comparable positions. Targeting in more areas leads to more accountability.
  • It seems that the lack of measurable targets influences how men view gender equality at the senior levels. Where 30% of women disagree that women are well represented, only 18% of men feel this way. This is an important number considering that men are in the majority of jobs that are making diversity decisions.
  • Only 43% of organizations hold their senior level management accountable for reaching diversity targets.

Fewer Sponsors

  • Women at the senor level have 15% fewer sponsors when compared to men. Also, their sponsors are mostly women, creating a further barrier to advancement. While tracking the number of women hired is beneficial, metrics needs to be comprehensive and transparent.
  • Sponsors play an important role in advancement. They proactively help their protege by introducing them to valuable connections, highlight their work to those in power, and recommend them for jobs and promotions. “According to a Harvard Business Review article, high-potential women are over-mentored and undersponsored relative to their male peers.”
  • The scarcity of women in higher level roles makes it even harder for women to get sponsors, considering that women are more likely to have women sponsors.


Women’s Leadership Development

  • Less than 35% of the organizations in Canada offer interventions and support to develop the skills of women.

Study of Canadian Women Compared to the US and UK

barriers to advancement


  • 36% of the women that McKinsey surveyed had partners, yet they were still responsible for most of the household work and childcare at home. Only 8% of men state this is an issue. Childcare and support programs for extended leaves are necessary to support women and their career goals. Canadian women spend 3 more hours per day on unpaid housework when compared to men, leaving little time to pursue advancement outside of work hours.
  • According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, women experience a motherhood penalty. “Cultural bias premised on gender stereotypes and traditional gender roles still influence women physicians’ decisions on which medical or surgical specialties to pursue. Women physicians are often advised to pursue certain specialties because they offer a “better work-life balance”, and regardless of their family status, women can be dissuaded from some fields, such as surgery. —Dr. Gigi Osler, President, Canadian Medical Association”
  • childcare and support programs
  • Flexible work options, extended leave programs, and back to work programs are needed to correct these deficiencies.
  • While women are revered for their social and emotional skills, this is a deficit when they go for higher level jobs due to the biases about women. This “double-blind” stereotype that expects women to be nurturing and empathetic prevents them from assuming “powerful” leadership positions that are associated with masculine traits. When they assume these masculine traits, they are seen as too aggressive.

Necessary Training

  • Many job opportunities require further education. Lower skilled and middle-wage workers need assistance if they want to transition to higher-skilled and wage jobs.
  • Technology jobs could be in the greatest demand by 2030, rising 55%. Outreach and assistance that pulls more women into STEM fields is necessary to meet these needs. Many studies show that ingrained gender biases, and a shortage of women role models discourage girls and women from pursuing a STEM degree.

Canadian BIPOC & Career Advancement Barriers

Facts- BIPOC Workers Earn Less & are Promoted Less

  • According to data from the Conference Board of Canada, university-educated Black people earn 80.4 cents for every dollar earned by white peers, compared to 87.4 cents for all visible minorities. For Indigenous people, it’s closer to 66 cents.
  • Visible minorities hold just 4.5% of director positions at the top 500 Canadian companies.
  • For every dollar that a non-racialized man makes, a racialized woman earns 59 cents. Racialized men earn 78 cents.
  • Statistics like those above, have created the term “concrete ceiling” for black women. There is no way to shatter this ceiling currently.
  • According to the most recent data from a poll of ICA member agencies, “73.9% of staff at agencies in Toronto are white, despite representing only 47.8% of the city’s population; 2.9% of staff are Black, despite representing 7.5% of the city’s population. In Montreal, white people make up 90.1% of agency staff (compared to 76.6% of the city’s population); 1% of staff are Black, compared to 6.8% of the population”.
  • According to a 2015 Statistics Canada report, Aboriginal people earn less, have higher unemployment rates, and were less likely to work in knowledge education (professional, management and technical positions) than their non-aboriginal peers.
  • Job applicants with Asian names and all-Canadian qualifications received 20.1% fewer callbacks than those with Anglo names from large 500+ employee companies. They received 39.4% and 37.1% fewer callbacks, respectively, from mid-sized and small employees.
  • Aboriginal people earn less, have higher unemployment rates, and are less likely to work in a knowledge professions according to Statistics Canada.

Reasons Why/Barriers

People are Passive & Do Not Understand

  • “It’s a very Canadian phenomenon to say, ‘We’re not racist, I’ve never done a racist thing in my life,’” says Barrett and Welsh’s Gavin Barrett. “Well, yes, there are lots of good people, but that does nothing for people who experience racism. We need people to actively do good, not passively be good.”
  • To address inequality, one must understand the system in which BIPOC navigate their careers. “It is important to be aware that standards of professionalism are ingrained in white supremacy culture and serve to oppress those who are BIPOC, according to CERIC.
  • “White-coded-brahviors and attitudes show up in a many organizations. These include “attitudes ranging from perfectionism, to standards of hair, clothing and communication patterns, to overall expectations like adhering to organizations’ “culture fit.” These expectations amplify toxic workplace environments and serve to hurt BIPOC’s careers.”

Lack of Role Models

  • Many state that as they attempt to climb the ranks, there are no role models that look like them. This lack of diversity affects who makes it to the top.

Educational Opportunities

  • From childhood, BIPOC are defined by how their educators see them. Only recently, the Government of Ontario announced that it would end the controversial practice of streaming students into applied and academic tracks, a practice that has widely been known to discriminate against racialized students. “A 2017 report from York University, Towards Race Equity in Education (2017), concluded 53% of Black students were in the academic program of study, compared to 81% of white and 80% of other racialized students.
  • These practicies limit opportunities and negatively affect careers.
  • Science Magazine discussed the playing field for these individuals. Things such as the GRE excluding some that could success, the difficulty of transitioning to college life, and that they are more likely to be non-traditional students. All of these factors increases their chances of failure. Programs are needed to bridge these roadblocks.


  • Most research focuses on one issue, for example, being a woman, or being a person of color. In reality, this is not the case in the majority of instances.
  • There is a risk when one talks of people as a single indentiy. It oversimplifies things. It makes them harder to correct, showing what a complex issue this is.

Ingrained Unrecognized Biases

  • In a study completed by the Conference Board of Canada, during the recruitment process, names that were non-ethnic sounding were 35% more likely to get a call back.
  • The Black Experience Project surveyed black people that were living in Toronto. They found that they cited challenges like ““having their level of competency questioned, dealing with racism and stereotypes, and having their qualifications overlooked or not recognized.”
  • “It’s about culture change, it’s about changing people’s attitude, it’s about those subtle jokes that people tell, it’s about appropriating cultural aspects,” said Sobia Ali-Faisal, co-founder and Pakistani member of Black, Indigenous, People of Colour United for Strength, Home and Relationships or BIPOC USHR.

Reverse Racism

  • Reverse racism seems to be gaining traction in Canada. This is a backlash against diversity and inclusion practices because white people feel equity is at their expense. They feel like they are losing their advantage.
  • CERIC talks of a study where employees learned about increased diversity practices at their company. Afterwards, white people exhibited increased fear and anger towards minority groups and perceived unfair treatment.

Latin American Women & Career Advancement Barriers


  • In Latin America, only 25% of top management jobs are held by women.
  • In Brazil, women between the ages of 25 and 49 are paid 79.4% of a man’s salary in the same occupation.
  • According to the World Economic Forum, in Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago, wives need to provide additional documentation when applying for a passport, which is not required of husbands.
  • In the Bahamas women face more difficulty in conferring citizenship to their children and in Barbados they cannot do so at all. Such restrictions can limit women’s access to government services.
  • In Bolivia, married women cannot get a job without the permission of their husbands.
  • 33 separate economies in Latin America prevent women from doing the same jobs as men. In Belize, women may not work at night in factories. In Colombia, women may not work in jobs deemed hazardous.
  • Gender inequality in the business sector still prevails in Brazil, which has one of the lowest rates of women in executive positions in Latin America and in the world.
  • According to National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), 8 out of 10 women in Mexico have faced gender based violence, indicating there are deeper problems than excelling in their careers.


Attitudes Towards Women

  • Although effort is being made to create gender equality, there is still a long way to go. “Jamaica repealed a restriction on night work for women which had been in place since 1942; Mexico made payments for childcare tax-deductible; and Uruguay increased the length of maternity and paternity leave. Uruguay also raised the minimum age of marriage with consent, for both boys and girls.”
  • Barbados is the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean to enact legislation of sexual harassment in the workplace in the last few years. The added the ability to redress avenues such as criminal penalties or civil remedies. The lack of any other Latin American countries being on this list indicates a deeper, overall problem.
  • Brazil has one of the lowest rates of women in executive positions in Latin America and the World.
  • Women indicated that some of their main barriers in Brazil were a lack of skills, no support networks, politics of the organization, no visibility, not valued, being excluded from informal networks, and an overall inhospitable corporate culture.


  • Machismo is a term that that refers to the “exaggeration and amplification of traditional male values” common to Latin America. Women in Brazil believe this is a major barrier to their career advancement.
  • A McKinsey study showed that women blamed that attitudes of men as their reasons for not being able to advance in their careers. Men, on the other hand, believed they did not have many women because they voluntarily quit their jobs to spend more time with their families. 78% of the participants reported that the cultures in their home countries make it easier for men than for women to move forward in their careers, with respondents in Brazil and Mexico being even more likely to say so.
  • While this is a problem in Brazil, Mexico scores higher when one studies the “value dimensions” between the two.

Parenthood Discrimination/Collectivisim

  • In the Worldbak Study 2020- Women, Business, and the Law, Latin America is one of the very few places that have not enacted additional reforms in the area of parenthood (other than the minimums that would be expected). Other countries have recently added protection for paid maternity leave, increased leave, and the prohibition of being dismissed because of being pregnant.
  • Women who work in the informal labor sector report that they frequently work longer hours, sleep less because they have to catch up with domestic chores, and find themselves tired at their jobs.
  • The familial system in Latin America is extremely important and experiences a high degree of collectivism. The idea of family, itself, it enlarged and encompasses grandparents and cousins, etc. This imparts a very strong idea of family. Mothers feel guilt over not spending more time with their family. They are anxious because they feel they should be at home with their children.

Latin American BIPOC & Career Advancement Barriers

As predicted, this area had the least amount of research, but some interesting facts and reasons were uncovered.


  • 2 out of 3 older adults are considered to be in an “educational lag”.
  • 22.2 percent of indigenous people do not have schooling in Mexico.
  • According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, 92% of Afro-Caribbeans descents live below the poverty line and are under-represented in politics compared to white wealthy men who still prevail in Houses of Representatives and Parliaments. Minorities continue to be criminalized, incarcerated by law enforcement and military intervention.



  • Jair Bolsonaro, 63, a Brazilian politician and former military officer, is a controversial figure. His positions on women and minorities, which are publicized, definitely do not help diversity practices. He has been quoted stating the indigenous people and Afro-descendants are “under educated” and “dirty people”.

Unequal Distribution of Wealth

  • There is a historical unequal distribution of wealth in Latin America. This brings about an unequal representation in political power. Historically, castes were created to represent the different peoples living in Latin America. This still affects society and how they think about BIPOC. White people are still viewed as having a higher status and reap those benefits.

Inadequate Access

  • The indigenous and black communities in Latin America have limited access to “elite spaces, leadership, elective positions and political decision-making.”

RacismDoes Not Exist

  • In Latin America, the ideology is that racism does not exist. There is a myth of racial democracy. They believe that “racial mixing in a population is a symptom of racial harmony and the absence of race-based inequalities remains influential among scholars and citizens”. “In order to reduce discrimination and the rejection of their identity, schools in Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil decided to design permanent awareness programs aimed at the deconstruction of racism, as well as to dismantle negative values about people of African descent and indigenous people.”
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at Simple Manifestation with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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