Why the gender pay gap still exists and what women can do to close it by 2066

According to researchers, female undergraduates in Canada are less likely than their male counterparts to choose an area of study they believe will offer high earning potential. Getty Images

The gender pay gap is as wide as it’s ever been but there’s a good chance it can disappear altogether in the next 49 years if world businesses, government and academia provide the right support – and women play their cards right, a new report says.

According to the new report, developed countries could see the gap close as soon as 2044, shortening the time to pay parity by 36 years. Developing countries should see their gender pay gap close by 2066, 100 years earlier than expected.

Canada has an even shorter waiting period as the pay gap is expected to disappear in 2035.

READ MORE: Closing gender pay gap boosts growth, good for the bottom line: IMF chief

“We believe that gender equality is a global issue and an essential element of an inclusive workplace,” Bill Morris, Canadian president and senior managing director at Accenture, told Global News.

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Accenture is a global professional services company pulled together the study called Getting to Equal 2017.

“Business, government and academia all have an important role to play in closing the gap. The gender pay gap is an economic and competitive imperative that matters to everyone, and we must all take action to create significant opportunities for women and close the gap more quickly,” he said.

Researchers found that, globally, women earn an average $100 for every $140 men earn. They also found women were less likely than men to have paid work (50 per cent and 76 per cent, respectively).

This could be for several reasons, the study points out, and could start as early as university.

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First, female undergraduates in Canada are less likely than their male peers to choose an area of study that they believe offer high earning potential (27 per cent versus 51 per cent).

Women are also less likely to have a mentor in college and university than men (33 per cent versus 61 per cent) or aspire to senior leadership positions (30 per cent versus 47 per cent).

Young women are also behind in adopting new technologies quickly (46 percent versus 62 per cent) and in taking coding and computing courses (60 per cent versus 80 per cent).

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“Today’s female university students in developed markets could be the first generation in history to see the gender pay gap close in their professional lifetimes – if this Class of 2020 makes strategic choices and gains more digital skills,” Morris says. “But they can’t do it alone.”

To reverse this, researchers say women should follow three career accelerators:

  1. Digital fluency: The extent to which people use digital technologies to connect, learn and work. It has the power to reduce the pay gap by 21 per cent worldwide by 2030.
  2. Career strategy: The need for women to aim high, make informed choices and manage their careers proactively. Doing this can reduce the pay gap nine per cent worldwide by 2030.
  3. Tech immersion: The opportunity to acquire greater technology and stronger digital skills to advance as quickly as men. Acquiring these skills can reduce the pay gap five per cent by 2030.

As for what governments, Morris says businesses and colleges and universities should do the following:

  • Governments: Make high-speed internet access a basic right of every citizen in both developed and developing countries. Getting this service to as many communities as possible will do more to get women working than any single action.
  • Businesses: Understand the dynamics that are attracting non-working women back into the workforce and create an environment where high-performing women want to stay with their current employer. Put an emphasis on flexible working empowered by mentorship programs, lifelong training, transparency and bench-marking salaries.
  • College and universities: Raise more awareness with female undergrads about the impact of course choices on future pay and advancement. As well, develop more tailored programs that appeal to women’s interests and inspire young women toward careers in technology by offering role models, summer immersion programs and mentoring.

“This is a very real issue affecting women, not just in Canada, but all around the world,” Morris says. “By ignoring the issue of pay inequality, and if the current trend continues, the pay gap will continue to rob Canada and families of great wealth, stalling diversity and skills, and deepening social inequality.”

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READ MORE: Women work 39 more days a year than men, World Economic Forum report

Researchers say these combined career accelerators can boost women’s income by $3.9 trillion.

Accenture surveyed more than 28,000 men and women including undergraduates, in 29 countries. The sample represented men and women equally, as well as three generations – Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers – across all workforce levels at companies varying in size.

The data was analyzed using econometric modelling and combined it with published data from the World Bank, the OECD, World Economic Forum and the UN. The pay gap calculations are based on an economic model developed by Accenture.

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