Canadian women struggle to find work/personal life balance

BMO annual Women's Day Study finds 47 per cent of respondents feel they've achieved that work/life balance.

  • Mar. 8, 2015 5:00 a.m.

This week the  BMO Financial Group released its third annual International Women’s Day study, which found that the majority of Canadian women are still struggling to achieve the optimal balance between their work and family lives.

The study found that only 47 per cent of women feel they have achieved the right work/life balance, with just under one third (31 per cent) reporting that their families provide enough support on the home front to help them succeed at their careers. However, on a positive note 68 per cent feel that their employer takes steps to ensure they can effectively manage their responsibilities at work and at home.

When asked what their families could be doing better or more of, women identified the following:

—  Be more helpful around the house (24 per cent)

—  Be more understanding of their work schedule (15 per cent)

—  Take on more child care responsibilities (9 per cent)

In terms of what employers can do to help women balance their lives more effectively, women identified:

—  Better benefits (27 per cent)

—  Flexible time (24 per cent)

—  Sick/family emergency days (21 per cent) and vacation time (18 per cent)

“Over the last sixty years, women have been entering the workforce in greater numbers. However the reality is that they still generally take on the lion’s share of household responsibilities, whether it is acting as primary caregiver for the children, doing housework or generally playing the role of chief operating officer of the family,” said Julie Barker-Merz, president, BMO InvestorLine and Head of BMO’s Women in Wealth Committee.

“Our study clearly indicates that many women are struggling with balancing their home and work lives and are seeking the active support of their spouses, children and employers in helping them do so.”

Should I stay or should I go (to a new employer)?

The study also found that 63 per cent of Canadian women feel that staying with one employer over the long term (and being promoted from within) is preferable to switching employers as a way to further their careers. This may be because 74 per cent of women (and 52 per cent of men) reported that it is more challenging for women to prove themselves to a new employer than it is for men. The top challenges women identified when starting with a new employer included:

—  Establishing a comfortable work/life balance (78 per cent)

—  Perceptions regarding family obligations and/or maternity leave (72 per cent)

“Women need to be empowered to seek out new career opportunities if they choose to do so and not feel that they face barriers because of their gender,” said Sandra Henderson, senior vice-president, Personal & Commercial Banking, BMO Bank of Montreal and Member of the BMO Women and Wealth Committee.

“While it’s possible to have a successful ‘one employer’ career, the reality of the modern employment landscape is that it’s often necessary to make moves to get promoted and secure more compensation.”

When asked about what would prompt them to change employers, the top reasons women reported included:

—  Poor management/bad boss (57 per cent)

—  Insufficient compensation (54 per cent)

—  Poor work/life balance (42 per cent)

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