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Cascades featured as gender diversity leader in manufacturing report

February 16, 2021  By P&PC Staff/Trillium Network

Photo: Cascades

Cascades is among five Ontario manufacturers profiled for their commitment to gender diversity in a new report by the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing.

The Gender Diversity and Ontario Manufacturing: Lessons from Five Leading Companies report presents case studies from the Quebec-based packaging and tissue manufacturer, as well as Honda of Canada Mfg., Sanofi Canada, Muskoka Brewery, and MAD Elevator.

The cases show that a concentrated effort on increasing gender diversity helps companies attract and retain top-level talent – which is especially of concern to a sector that faces labour shortages and an aging workforce.


Based off the information gathered from the participating companies, the report’s authors conclude that improving gender diversity in the manufacturing sector is not just a moral imperative, but also an economic one.

“Manufacturing is a critical part of our economy, and in order to thrive, manufacturers need to attract the best and brightest. And 50 per cent of our best and brightest are women,” says Dr. Brendan Sweeney, the Trillium Network’s managing director and co-author of Gender Diversity and Ontario Manufacturing: Lessons from Five Leading Companies.

“The five manufacturers featured in this report have found ways to do this and should be commended. They were so incredibly open about their experiences, and there is so much we can learn from them.”

Setting the stage

Currently, women make up nearly half of Ontario’s workforce, but comprise only 29 per cent of the manufacturing workforce.

Using data from Statistics Canada, the Trillium Network found that the number of women in the manufacturing sector has remained stagnant since the early 1980s.

Women tend to be in lower-paying roles within the sector, such as in administrative work, sales, and production, and are not well represented in higher-paying occupations such as in the skilled trades, STEM and management.

Other findings show that the occupational mix within different manufacturing industries impacts gender diversity.

Cascades noted for leadership

Central to the report are the case studies, which the Trillium Network says provide evidence of progress within the industry. These cases also set a benchmark for other companies as they look to expand upon their supports for hiring, retaining and advancing women.

The authors found that improving diversity and inclusion is the result of conscious and intentional efforts made by company leaders at these five companies, and involves multiple initiatives as part of a comprehensive strategy.

“All of these companies put in a lot of work. They made investments in their people and their practices. There were no happy accidents,” says Eva Kwan, a PhD candidate at Western University and co-author.

Kwan notes that “Yes, there are costs associated with these investments. But there are also benefits to employees, their families and communities, and to the companies. And in each case, the benefits substantially outweigh the costs.”

For Cascades, which was awarded bronze-level gender parity certification from Women in Governance in 2019, diversity and inclusion initiatives have included identifying female employees to be trained in leadership programs, and offering diversity training to recruitment teams to challenge biases.

The packaging manufacturer also tracks data about who occupies the roles at all levels of its organization, which helps to ensure women are in contention for leadership roles.

Among other efforts, Cascades attracts more female applicants by using “feminine-coded” language to ensure women know the company is committed to diversity and inclusion.

Guidelines for implementation

The Gender Diversity and Ontario Manufacturing report lays out 10 lessons learned from the featured companies, including the importance of data and benchmarking as essential components of diversity and inclusivity initiatives.

Companies should keep demographic information about their employees so that they can track progress.

Another is to involve women in the planning, execution and review of gender equity practices — and that should extend beyond gender to race and age when implementing overall diversity, equity and inclusion policies.

The report authors urge manufacturers to get started on their gender diversity initiatives.

Talissa Watson, a MSc candidate at the Ivey Business School and the report’s third co-author, notes that “The best time to plant a tree was ten years ago. The second-best time is now. This report provides some important insights for companies looking to improve gender diversity.”

Read the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing’s full report here.

For more on recruitment, retention and advancement of women into forestry leadership positions, check out the Women in Forestry Virtual Summit on Mar. 9! It’s free to attend. Register here.

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