June 24, 2013 6:34 pm
Updated: October 16, 2013 8:46 pm

In dual-income households, Canadian women still earn less

An employee make his way to work at Statistics Canada in Ottawa.


TORONTO – Fewer than one in five women in dual-income households earn more than their partners, according to Statistics Canada figures obtained by Global News.

And dual-income households where a woman’s the primary breadwinner are poorer, on average, than their counterparts – roughly $105 100, as compared to male primary earners with a $118 000 income.

The data, from 2010, indicate that Canadian women on average make $47, 300. This is topped by men at $64, 200.

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Armine Yalnizyan, senior economist for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said there’s a variety of reasons for this.

“Men rise to the top of organizations more rapidly partly because women [generally] take breaks from work,” she said. “There is also some bias by employers to not promote or pay [women] as much as men”.

Carleton University economist Frances Woolley noted that most women can be reluctant to negotiate a higher salary, placing importance on things like a good work environment and pursuing jobs that offer self-satisfaction rather than financial gain.

“Women who enter the workforce now see more opportunities. They have this message of  ‘I can do anything’, then they realize they can’t do everything” Woolley said .

She noted that not all men make more than women – the gender gap in wage and income is relative to class.

For example, men who work in low-skill jobs don’t make much more than other women in low-skill jobs. The higher the class, the higher the visibility of wage difference. 

And as women outnumber and out-score men in higher education, it doesn’t necessarily boost their paycheques later in life.

“Women’s education levels are matching and surpassing [men’s] now – but we’re still getting paid less. You have to work twice as hard” Yalnizyan said.

“Even if you have post-secondary degree you’re most likely to be underemployed.” 

Lionel Tiger, a New Jersey professor at Rutgers University, also says women believe they may have to care for their children alone someday, and flock to universities in an effort he calls “studying for two”.

StatsCanada reports that the percentage of female university students rose from 56.4 per cent in 1992 to 60 per cent in 2008.

The proportion of women aged 25 to 54 with a bachelor or postgraduate degree also has increased, reaching 28 per cent in 2009.

But a 2006 StatsCan study found that women with a high educational background who worked as the primary earners in a household also made less in managerial and professional occupations than men.

In Canada, there is a noticeable difference in the types of work women do. The number of men in trades, transport and construction vastly outnumbers women. 

“If you break down the highest paying jobs, [they are] overwhelmingly male jobs. The jobs that are overwhelmingly female are the lowest paying jobs” continues Tiger.

The types of jobs women pursue makes a difference; women are enrolled in the humanities more often than men, whereas “money-making” professions (like engineering, architecture, chief executive positions etc.) are often still male-dominated.

“I would like to think we’re in a society where mutual respect happens,” Woolley said.

“Gender equality can only really be achieved by individual choices and the actions of millions of Canadians. [This means] respecting female bosses, having women as negotiators, and offering the same starting salary as [employers] would a man.”

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