If things continue the way they are, it will take Canada roughly 164 years to close the economic gap between men and women, according to a new report.
In reviewing how well Canada is meeting the United Nations (UN) gender equality goals it committed to in 1995, the report shows “uneven” progress over the past five years. This is despite a renewed focus on equality from the Liberal government.
In its own progress report for the UN, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government submitted this spring, Ottawa highlighted achievements like gender-based budgeting.
However, the shadow report from more than 50 non-governmental organizations shows that a persistent gender gap still remains. The gap is especially evident when it comes to economic security, even though women now outnumber men when it comes to completing post-secondary education.
That gap is even wider for women with disabilities or from First Nations, Metis, Inuit and immigrant communities.
What’s behind the gender pay gap?
Around half of the gender pay gap in Canada seems to be caused by the fact that women tend to work in lower-paying industries and jobs, according to a study by job search giant Glassdoor earlier this year.
The finding echoes a 2016 study by Oxfam Canada and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which found that women-dominated industries tended to have lower average pay compared to sectors dominated by men.
For example, the median annual wage for truck drivers, who are overwhelmingly men, was $45,417. By contrast, the median annual salary for early childhood educators, who are overwhelmingly women, was $25,334, the report noted.
The fact that women tend to sort themselves into lower-paying occupations is an even bigger part of the problem in the U.S., where it explains almost 57 per cent of the gap.
In other countries, like the U.K., though, just 37 per cent of the gap is due to women choosing careers with smaller paycheques, while 23 per cent of it is explained by differences in education and professional experience.
In Canada, only 11 per cent of the gap can be attributed to differences in education and experience, Glassdoor reported.
Pay differences can vary widely based on industry and job title
While pay disparities between these industries explain a lot, the size of the pay gap also varies significantly from sector to sector. For example, in the U.S., for which Glassdoor produced the most granular analysis, women working in media, retail and the construction industry are likely to be most underpaid compared to equally qualified men.
Job roles also matter. For example, pilot tops the list as the job having the widest adjusted pay gap in the U.S., even if the aerospace and defence industry overall boasts one of the smallest adjusted pay gaps.
In general, C-suite executives also displayed one of the widest gaps, with women’s paycheques 24 per cent smaller than men’s.
The change needs to come from the top down
The problem, say experts, is that there isn’t only an imbalance between men and women when it comes to pay — inequality extends to all other elements of work life, too.
According to Senior, companies need to focus on creating workplaces that are open and accepting.
The key to closing the gender pay gap is a commitment from leadership, Anil Verma told Global News in a preview interview. He’s a professor of industrial relations and human resource management at the Rotman School of Business.
“The battle starts at the top,” he noted. “The leader of the organization has to send a clear message through communication and through action to demonstrate that this is an ‘equal opportunity’ company.”
A perfect example of this is the promotion of a woman into a key position within the corporation.
For Verma, actions are just as important as words — they go together and they complement one another.
“There needs to be a commitment from the top to wanting to make sure that discrimination based on gender is not accepted and it’s not excused,” Senior added.
— With files from the Canadian Press & Erica Alini