StatsCAN Plus

Women’s History Month: The Remarkable Life of Sylvia Ostry

October 11, 2022, 10:02 a.m. (EDT)

When you think about people who have led extraordinary lives, it’s difficult to imagine who they were before they made it - before they were successful.

Sylvia Ostry was the first, and (so far!) only, female Chief Statistician of Canada.

She was a trailblazer during an era when women in Canada were just beginning to achieve equality in both their personal and public lives.

In 1952, when Sylvia became a lecturer of economics at McGill University, women in her home province of Manitoba were given the right to be jury members. Sylvia began working as the Director of Special Manpower Studies and Consultation at Statistics Canada in 1965. Just one year before that, in 1964, women were given the right to open a bank account without their husband’s signature. And in 1971, the year before Sylvia was made Chief Statistician, Manitoba stopped firing female municipal employees after they married.

In 1962, 32% of women aged 25 to 54 participated in the labour market. That’s a 40% increase from 10 years prior. While that might seem like a relatively small percentage today, it represented a huge shift at the time. The workplace was changing, with more and more women working outside the home than ever before.

A decade later, in 1972, 45% of women aged 25 to 54 participated in the labour market, that is, were employed or looking for a job.

This was the same year that Sylvia Ostry was appointed Chief Statistician of Canada.

Sylvia Ostry was a cultivated human being and was highly intelligent. She expressed her identity through her work and ultimately devoted her entire working life to public service.

Sylvia passed away in 2020, and to celebrate her, The Eh Sayers podcast is taking a look back at her remarkable life.

Embedded between clips of Sylvia's voice from an interview she gave to Bronwyn Bragg and Mary Breen, recorded on May 28, 2008, are eight pieces of advice from the life of Sylvia Ostry.

Listen to the full podcast here to learn more about Sylvia’s efforts and contributions to making Canada a better place to live. 

Contact information

For more information, contact the Statistical Information Service (toll-free 1-800-263-1136514-283-8300; or Media Relations (