The Successes and Challenges of Visible Minority Women in Canada

Last year Statistics Canada released a report on the economic wellbeing and education levels of visible minority women. Statistics Canada defines visible minority as “persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour’”.  Here are some highlights that identify the successes and challenges of visible minority women when it comes to education and employment.


Visible minority women born in Canada are more likely to have a post-secondary degree than other populations who do not identify as a visible minority, “47.7% of Canadian-born visible minority women of core working age had a university degree, compared with 25.8% of same-aged women who were not a visible minority”.

Additionally, visible minority women are more likely than non-visible minority men and women to have a post-secondary degree in a fields less studied by women such as computer sciences, mathematics and engineering. For example, 4.4% of non-visible minority men had a degree in computer science and mathematics compared to 4.8% of visible minority women.

View this chart to see a breakdown of gender, visible minority status and field of study.


Employment rates tell a different story than the education statistics. Despite visible minority women being more likely to have post-secondary education they display lower employment rates. Nearly 79% of non-visible minority women are employed compared to 68% of visible minority women. When removing women of immigrant status out of the equation the employment rate increases to 79% for Canadian born visible minority. Regarding immigrant status women who belong to a visible minority rate – the employment rate is 67.3% compared to immigrant status women do not belong to a visible minority, 75.4%.

Statistics Canada also reveals an income gap between visible minority women and non-visible minority women – $39,330, compared with $42,848 respectively. However, second generation visible minority have a gap of $1,000 and third generation visible minority women report higher earnings than non-visible minority women.

Over 20% of visible minority women experienced some form of discrimination due to one or more of the following reasons: ethnicity, race, skin colour, religion, and language. Half of those women reported that the discrimination occurred in their workplace or when applying for a job.

Currently, visible minority women make up a third of the female population, by 2031 they will make up for more than a third of women in Canada. This is a population with strong post-secondary education, and have skills that are highly sought after such as engineering and computer sciences. Yet, their employment rate and income do not represent their education status. This is an under-tapped market labour force.

According to Wall Street Journal, women of colour “are the most underrepresented group in the senior and upper ranks of companies”. Ambition isn’t the issue, 48% of women of colour said they aspire to be a top executive compared to 37% of Caucasian women. However, women of colour make up only 12% of management. Senior level managers need to be more active in hiring the process, in eliminating hiring biases, and after hiring – they need to ensure all women have the support needed to climb the corporate ladder.

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