Women's History Month 2023... by the numbers

Women's History Month - Through Her Lens


  • In 2021, there were about 18.4 million women and girlsFootnote1 in private households in Canada, accounting for half (50.6%) of the population in private households. Among them, more than one-quarter (26.8%) were racializedFootnote2, while 23.8% were immigrants, and 5.1% were Indigenous.Footnote6,Footnote7
    • Just over half (51.3%) of all immigrant women admitted since 1980 were admitted under the economic category, one-third (33.4%) were sponsored by family, and 13.9% were admitted as refugees.Footnote3,Footnote8
  • Over the 2015-to-2018 period, 3.5% of womenFootnote5 aged 15 years and over were lesbian (1.1%) or bisexual (2.4%).Footnote9
  • Almost 3.5 million women aged 15 years and over had a disability in 2017, accounting for close to one-quarter (24.3%) of all women.Footnote10 More than 2 in 5 women with a disability had a severe (21.7%) or very severe (23.1%) disability.Footnote11


  • The educational attainment of women in Canada has increased significantly over the past decades. In 2021, 36.1% of women aged 25 to 64 years had a bachelor's degree or higher, which was almost three times greater than the proportion of women with a bachelor's degree or higher in 1991 (12.7%).Footnote12,Footnote13
  • The high school completion rate of Indigenous women aged 25 to 64 years increased from 2011 to 2021. About three-quarters (74.2%) of First Nations women, 85.6% of Métis women, and 54.2% of Inuit women had a high school diploma or equivalent in 2021 (compared to 64.8%, 77.4%, and 44.4% of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women, respectively, in 2011).Footnote14,Footnote15
  • Immigrant women, particularly recent immigrant women, are highly educated. In 2021, 3 in 5 (60.7%) recent immigrant women aged 25 to 64 years had a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 31.1% of non-immigrant women.Footnote16
  • Among Black women, African-origin second-generation Black women had particularly high levels of education. In 2021, almost 3 in 5 (57.3%) African-origin second-generation Black women aged 25 to 54 years had a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 35.3% of Caribbean-origin second-generation Black women and 41.7% of non-racialized second-generation women.Footnote17
  • Among those aged 25 to 64 years with a bachelor's degree or higher, more than one-third (35.8%) of West Asian women had a degree in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math and computer sciences) in 2021, compared to 16.9% of the total population of women aged 25 to 64 years with a bachelor's degree or higher. The same was true for more than one-quarter of South Asian (27.6%), Chinese (27.1%), and Arab (26.3%) women.Footnote18


  • Over the past several decades, women's labour force participation in Canada has increased. In 1981, 57.7% of women aged 25 to 64 years were in the labour force. Forty years later, more than three-quarters (76.5%) of women participated in the labour force.Footnote19,Footnote20
  • Lesbian women (83.7%) aged 25 to 64 years were more likely to be employed over the 2015-to-2018 period than their heterosexual (74.0%) and bisexual (68.1%) counterparts. The median employment income (before taxes) of bisexual women ($38,500) aged 25 to 64 years who worked full time was significantly lower than that of heterosexual ($47,300) and lesbian ($48,600) women.Footnote21
  • From 2016 to 2021, the labour force participation rate of West Asian women aged 25 to 64 years increased by 5.9 percentage points to 68.0%). Increases were also observed for Korean women (+5.4 percentage points to 70.7%), Arab women (+4.6 percentage points to 62.2%), and South Asian women (+4.4 percentage points to 75.1%.Footnote22,Footnote23
  • Over the 2015-to-2018 period, the median employment incomes (before taxes) of lesbian ($48,600) and heterosexual ($47,300) women aged 25 to 64 years who were employed full time were comparable, while bisexual women earned less ($38,500). Although there was a significant gap between the median employment incomes of heterosexual men and women ($61,400 vs. $47,300, respectively), this was not the case for gay men and lesbian women ($51,400 vs. $48,600, respectively), nor bisexual men and women ($39,400 vs. $38,500).Footnote24

Health and Well-Being

  • Over the 2015-to-2018 period, more than one-quarter (27.4%) of bisexual women aged 15 years and over experienced moderate or severe food insecurity in their household in the previous 12 months, which was more than double the proportion observed for lesbian women (13.0%) and almost triple the proportion observed for heterosexual women (9.6%).Footnote25
  • Young women and girls are less likely to report very good or excellent mental health than young men and boys. For example, in 2021, just over half (52.2%) of women and girls aged 12 to 17 years rated their mental health as very good or excellent, which was about 20 percentage points lower than the proportion of men and boys in this age group who reported the same (72.1%).Footnote26
  • Women and girls in more remote areas of Canada are less likely than their counterparts in more accessible areas to have a regular health care provider. Over the 2015-to-2018 period, 55.4% of women and girls aged 12 years and over in very remote areas reported having a regular health care provider, compared to almost 9 in 10 (87.7%) women and girls in easily accessible areas. This gap was even more pronounced among Indigenous women and girls, with just over one-third (35.1%) of those in very remote areas reporting that they had a regular health care provider, compared to 87.3% of those in easily accessible areas.Footnote27

Note to readers
Beginning in 2021, the census asked questions about both the sex at birth and gender of individuals. While data on sex at birth are needed to measure certain indicators, as of the 2021 Census, gender (and not sex) is the standard variable used in concepts and classifications. Age, Sex at Birth and Gender Reference Guide, Census of Population, 2021.

Given that the non-binary population is small, data aggregation to a two-category gender variable is sometimes necessary to protect the confidentiality of responses. In these cases, individuals in the category “non-binary persons” are distributed into the other two gender categories. For all data presented here from the 2021 Census, the category “women” includes women (and/or girls), as well as some non-binary persons.
A fact sheet on gender concepts, Filling the gaps: Information on gender in the 2021 Census, is also available.

In this release, data on “racialized groups” is measured by the “visible minority” variable. “Visible minority” refers to whether or not a person belongs to one of the visible minority groups defined by the Employment Equity Act. The Employment Equity Act defines visible minorities as “persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.” The visible minority population consists mainly of the following groups: South Asian, Chinese, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Arab, Southeast Asian, West Asian, Korean and Japanese.