Lessons Learned

The Blueprint is an actionable roadmap designed to support organizations looking to break systemic barriers and improve performance on a number of different gender equality attributes in the workplace.

The rise of corporate sustainability is motivating businesses to acknowledge that they cannot keep doing business as usual and, instead, must integrate environmental, social, and economic drivers for long-term success. Gender equality, one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, cannot be achieved without the active engagement of the private sector. With this in mind, the objective of the Gender Equality Leadership in the Canadian Private Sector project was to help organizations turn their commitment to advancing gender equality in the workplace into concrete action and real progress.

Various systemic, cultural, and institutional factors have prevented or slowed the progression of workplace gender equality. Entrenched gender stereotypes and biases, apathy, lack of knowledge, and barriers within male- and female-dominated industries contribute to discriminatory practices, unequal career development or professional opportunities, gender wage gaps, inadequate workplace safety and wellbeing measures, and uneven work-life balance. While these challenges are complex, the Blueprint for Gender Equality Leadership in the Canadian Private Sector focuses on solutions, recommendations, and successful practices intended to inspire action to bring about positive change for all employees, workers, and employers. It is an actionable roadmap designed to support organizations looking to break these systemic, cultural, and institutional barriers and improve performance on a number of different gender equality attributes in the workplace.

The Blueprint for Gender Equality Leadership in the Canadian Private Sector was built on three years of primary and secondary research and active collaboration with participating companies from the private sector and advisory partner organizations. The Blueprint features a number of proven methods and practices, both large and small, to improve gender equality in the workplace with a specific focus on three cornerstones: Leadership, Inclusion, and Transparency and Accountability. These cornerstones are broken down further to include a number of different attributes and more detailed information on how to advance gender equality. The Blueprint contains comprehensive learnings that are applicable to any organization regardless of its size, industry, lifespan, business segments, staff location, type of workers retained, or how far advanced it is when it comes to achieving gender equality.

Major Insights and Lessons Learned from the Project

  • Pursuing gender equality is an ongoing journey; every organization must start somewhere and have a long-term strategy in place to continue to work at improving.
  • Gender equality should be prioritized as a key business objective and embedded in all aspects of an organization and its operations with specific accountability mechanisms.
  • Bold leadership commitment combined with visible action is critical to successfully advancing gender equality in the workplace and a key factor to motivating others to follow suit.
  • Policies, procedures, programs, strategies, and initiatives must be in place, but they need to be supported by an inclusive and respectful organizational culture.
  • Proactively adapting to support the individual needs of the workforce can be a significant means of future-proofing your organization; this can include enhancing flexible work options, creating physical and psychological safe work environments, and reconceptualizing how performance is measured and rewarded.
  • Improving gender equality in the workplace will benefit all genders; it is not simply a woman’s issue and must also be approached from the perspective of intersectional identity factors, including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, ability, age, etc.
  • Strategic communication is key when it comes to raising awareness, building capacity, and ensuring that everyone understands why the organization prioritizes gender equality and how to work towards the same goals.
  • Continuous learning, education, and training initiatives are fundamental methods of addressing and preventing gender stereotypes, biases, and misinformation.
  • Organizations must be proactive and transparent when addressing structural inequality such as gender wage gaps or uneven career prospects in order to showcase leadership.
  • Data, specifically intersectional gender-disaggregated quantitative and qualitative data, must inform goal setting. This data should be routinely and transparently measured, evaluated, and reported to internal and external stakeholders.
  • Private sector businesses must collaborate and work with each other and with the government to solve systemic issues and motivate each other to achieve gender equality leadership.

The Roadmap to Pursue Gender Equality in the Workplace

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. The Blueprint for Gender Equality Leadership in the Canadian Private Sector can help organizations begin their gender equality journey, continue to progress, and, eventually, enjoy the benefits of becoming a gender equality leader in Canada.

While each organization’s journey may be different and certain sections of the Blueprint may be more or less pertinent, the end goal is the same for all: achieve gender equality. By proactively working to enhance the three primary cornerstones of gender equality with specific actions related to their individual attributes, organizations can play a key role in breaking barriers and accelerating gender equality progress.

The table below displays key actions related to the three cornerstones of gender equality in the workplace and reflects the globally accepted Women’s Empowerment Principles.


  • Showcase bold and visible commitment and corresponding actions
  • Embed gender equality into the core of the business, and prioritize it as a key business objective
  • Assess company workforce demographics (e.g. gender identity, race/ethnicity, ability/disability) regularly and comprehensively
  • Approach decision-making processes from a gender-responsive perspective


  • Collect baseline qualitative and quantitative data to assess the state of gender equality
  • Use a gender-responsive and intersectional perspective to evaluate activities across all levels and teams
  • Internally communicate the gender equality strategy, data, results, action items, initiatives, and policies to all employees
  • Conduct an intersectionality analysis and develop a corresponding policy
  • Create awareness about gender equality, inclusion, gender norms, biases, and stereotypes by making resources, training, and education available to all employees
  • Embed gender equality and inclusion systematically and intentionally into all aspects of your organizational culture
  • Establish transparent remuneration policies that work towards closing the gender wage gap
  • Create equal opportunity recruitment, retention, and promotion practices and policies, and career development programs
  • Allow for and encourage employees to make use of workplace flexibility arrangements (e.g. flexible work, parental leave)
  • Devise workplace wellbeing, health, and safety policies that recognize gender differences, sexual harassment and violence, and physical and mental health
  • Actively source from women-owned and -operated enterprises and ensure gender equality practices and policies exist in your supply chain
  • Represent all genders proportionally and respectfully in advertising and marketing materials
  • Establish meaningful partnerships and community initiatives to support women and girls’ empowerment

Transparency and Accountability

  • Ensure there are tools and processes in place for periodical data collection, goal setting, measuring and evaluating, and reporting
  • Set gender equality goals at the organizational level and set targets at the activity level to support those goals
  • Collect, measure, and analyze qualitative and quantitative gender-disaggregated data to inform or evaluate the effectiveness of a gender equality strategy and goals
  • Insist on open internal and external communication and reporting of gender equality progress and impact