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Do You Picture a Woman When You Hear the Word ‘CEO’?

What type of person do you picture when you hear the word ‘president’?

Or ‘nurse’?

What about ‘CEO’?

While much progress has been made in increasing the equality of opportunity for persons of any gender to pursue careers of any vocation, there still exists a significant gap in equality of perception. Which is to say, many people still think some jobs are for men and others for women.

Such was the finding of a recent survey conducted by Plan International Canada, which revealed that only 10 per cent of Canadian youth picture a woman when they think of a CEO.

This is despite the fact that 75 per cent of girls and young women say they have confidence in their ability to lead.

“The disconnect between ambition and how girls and young women in Canada perceive their capabilities to lead is complicated – but it begins to make sense when focus is placed on the systemic barriers and the role gender socialization plays in shaping attitudes and perceptions from an early age,” says Saadya Hamdani, Director, Gender Equality at Plan International Canada.

“It’s not the potential or capacities of girls that is the problem – it’s the reality of the social and institutional environments they are faced with.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise that young people equate being a CEO with being male. There are only three women among Canada’s 100 richest CEOs. Now, that doesn’t say anything about how many women lead Canada’s most sustainable businesses, or most impactful, or have most successfully turned the fortunes of a company. Of course, lists like that don’t exist.

CEOs are ranked on how much money they make, and society’s perception is that men make money. A couple of problems to work through before we can expect grade-schoolers to picture someone who looks more like Linda Hasenfratz than Mr. Burns when they think of a person they might work for one day.

Christian Nathler

Christian Nathler is a contributing writer at Notable Life.