Ninety-three per cent of Canadian women business leaders feel they are paid less than their male counterparts and that image plays more of a role in their advancement compared to men, according to a new Randstad Canada survey.

Women in the Randstad Women Shaping Business survey released Tuesday said there is still a substantial divide in many areas of business, with more than 70 per cent of respondents saying men are paid more and are more likely to get promoted.

Ninety per cent of women respondents said image is a large or moderate factor in career progression, compared to 36 per cent of men who feel the same way.

“Two things are surprising – one was that 90 per cent of women think there is some sort of impact because of their appearance to how they’re climbing up the ladder,” Gina Ibghy, chief people officer of Randstad Canada, said in an interview with CBC’s Lang & O’Leary Exchange that will air Wednesday.

The other surprise was that it was women at the age when their careers have the greatest potential who were most worried about how appearance would affect their chances to climb the corporate ladder.

'"If we keep telling women they have to work twice as hard, then the perception is going to be that they have to' - Gina Ibghy, Randstad

“The women over 55 don’t see it as much of an impact, and women under 35 don’t see it so much of an impact. It’s really that middle generation, which is interesting, because this is where they are in their career paths,” Ibghy said.

The recent study of 501 female business leaders was conducted by Ipsos-Reid on behalf of Randstad Canada.

Among respondents, 61 per cent said they had to overcome managing work and family, while 53 per cent said there were limited opportunities for women in the job market.

It is difficult to determine whether the high level of stress women report is because of personality — there are also men who experience high stress levels — or because women have high standards for themselves, Ibghy said.

"If we keep telling women they have to work twice as hard, then the perception is going to be that they have to. I really believe women have to start thinking about ‘what is it that I bring to the table? What is the intellectual value of what I’m doing?’ and focus on that. The rest will take care of itself," she said.

A majority of respondents said they believed having a woman boss was a disadvantage to career ambitions, but Ibhy dismissed that perception.

"It’s a myth," she said. "The myth comes where a female actually understands what it’s like to go through the process of breaking through that ceiling and those are the women who lend themselves to actually lean in and mentor someone else."

Canada’s progressive businesses are attempting to remove the glass ceiling for women in the workplace, yet the study suggests "many of the key inhibitors to female progression are not easily identifiable factors that can be addressed by corporate policies or workplace procedures, because wider societal perceptions of women and the complexities of male and female interactions are at play."