The landmark adoption of the SDGs in 2015 introduced SDG 5: Gender Equality, which emphasizes that achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls is essential for the holistic development of society and the economy. Although globally there is no shortage of internationally agreed upon tools and resources, national policies, and declarations on gender equality goals, for many countries gender equality is a far-reaching vision. Seizing the commonality and potential synergies coming from the Government of Canada’s commitment to advance gender equality, in 2017, GCNC received support from the Department for Women and Gender Equality (formerly known as Status of Women Canada) to develop a project to accelerate action on SDG 5. The resulting three-year project, Gender Equality Leadership in the Canadian Private Sector, was designed to engage Canadian businesses in eliminating barriers faced by women in the workplace and improve women’s economic security and prosperity. Although the challenges that women encounter are pervasive, our project acknowledges that gender-based barriers are not exclusive to women and aims to address obstacles faced by all employees and workers in order to improve workplace equality and inclusion.

In order to effectively support workplace gender equality, GCNC established active partnerships with over twenty private sector enterprises and expert organizations to ensure that all our recommendations and outputs were accurate, relevant, and realistic. Working with diverse organizations has grounded our project in the complex reality of workplace gender issues that exist throughout the pipeline within different industries and sectors in Canada. Over the course of three years, we have held workshops, webinars, and feedback calls with our participating companies and advisory partners to develop, test, and implement a Blueprint for Gender Equality Leadership in the Canadian Private Sector and a Maturity Model assessment tool that work together to untangle this complexity and create a clear roadmap for organizations to achieve gender equality.

The Blueprint calls on companies to demonstrate leadership by taking bold actions that are built on strong foundations of authenticity, integrity, and responsibility.

Together with the project participants, we discussed key challenges that inhibit the advancement of gender equality, and also brainstormed progressive solutions and recognized best practices. As a result, we were able to identify various systemic, cultural, and institutional factors preventing or slowing the progression of workplace gender equality. These deep-rooted challenges and barriers demonstrate that while commitment to workplace gender equality may exist in Canada, it has not yet translated into meaningful progress. In order to bring about significant change, the private sector must move beyond good intentions to actively pursue the goal of achieving gender equality in the workplace.

By partaking in this project, our participating companies have demonstrated that they prioritize the advancement of gender equality. While the Blueprint highlights Canadian organizations that have displayed leadership as well as a number of innovative and thoughtful practices being implemented across the country, much more remains to be done to drive progress. We hope that these participating companies are the first of many to use the Blueprint and Maturity Model to work towards creating workplaces that work for all employees and workers in Canada.

The Gender Equality Leadership in the Canadian Private Sector project and the resulting Blueprint was co-authored by the following members of the Global Compact Network Canada (GCNC): Ayman Chowdhury, Project Leader, Sandra Espinosa, Project Manager, and Brittany Gataveckas, Project Associate.