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Gender Gap Alert: High-Performing Women and Underperforming Men Share Same Chances for Leadership

Woman at a laptop with her toddler

If you need a reminder of what a gender gap in leadership looks like, this is it. According to a recent University of British Columbia study, as an A-grade female high school student, you have as much access to leadership positions in your future employment as a boy with failing grades. 

The study also found that in heteronormative households, dads are more likely to have supervising roles than moms, even if moms had higher grades in high school. In fact, they were four times more likely to get to these positions.

See also: 10 Black Canadians who played a big role in Canadian history.

The study, published in the journal Social Forces, dove into whether women and men showed indications of future leadership potential earlier in adolescence, and discovered that there is widespread under-utilization of women’s potential in the workforce when it comes to these leadership opportunities. 

Specifically, the study also revealed the disparity that occurs after men and women become parents; before parenthood, the relationship between high school grades and leadership is similar. However, it is after this milestone that experiences vastly diverge for men and women. “After they become parents, men start to reap a lot of the leadership returns from their academic achievement, but women do not,” the study’s lead author Yue Qian, told the Vancouver Sun.

Related: 12 female leaders who give us hope.

Women in this group were more likely to take parental leave (such as maternity leave), and to work fewer hours once their careers were underway, leading to shorter job tenures and less cumulative work experience. In short: Mothers overwhelmingly bore the brunt of stunted careers for the sake of the family as a whole. 

Worth noting is that the study focused on 5,000 people in the U.S. born between 1957 and 1964, and compared their high school transcripts as well as their career-oriented surveys between an 11-year period from 1988 to 1998. However, Qian noted that Canada shows similar trends. “The female employment rate, gender wage gaps, segregation of occupations, and women’s access to leadership positions are all areas where it shows.” 


Related: The currency of beauty in the workforce.

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