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Will the gender pay gap ever close? Most Canadian women say yes, but 20% say no

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Most working women in Canada say they are not paid enough as gender wage gaps continue, and 20 per cent say they don’t believe those gaps will ever close, according to a new report.

Polling by job search engine Indeed released on International Women’s Day, Wednesday, showed that 65 per cent of Canadian women feel they are being underpaid in their current positions.

A total of 1,500 working women across Canada took part in the survey.

While the pay gap in Canada has been slowly narrowing over the years, male employees continue to earn more than their female counterparts, according to Statistics Canada.

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On average, women workers earn 11 per cent less per hour than men, the most recent StatCan data from 2021 showed.

However, there is optimism among women, with under 40 per cent who were surveyed saying the pay gap will close in the next decade and 67 per cent saying this will happen in the next 50 years.

One in five or 20 per cent also said they don’t see the gender pay gap ever closing in Canada.

“The progress has been slow on gender equity, not only just in terms of pay, but also in terms of representation, especially in certain higher-paying industries,” said Kendall Anderson, manager of equitable transition at the Pembina Institute — a Canadian think-tank on clean energy.

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She said the energy sector, in particular, is one where the gender pay gap remains a challenge because there is still a low percentage of women working in that industry, which means they are less likely to move up to higher paying roles.

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Within the energy sector, women also tend to be employed in lower-paying departments such as human resources as opposed to STEM which pays more, said Anderson.

Michelle Slater, director at Indeed, said the new report shows that things are moving in the right direction when it comes to supporting women in the workplace, but there is room for improvement.

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“There is an overall sense of optimism from Canadian working women but there are also areas where they feel things can be improved,” she told Global News.

Fair compensation is among them.

Anderson believes the pay gap is not only based on bias but a lack of opportunities, saying it is “a very complex issue” which needs to be addressed by the government, industries and educational institutions.

“I think this is an issue that we need to address in every area of our society,” Anderson said.

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Mira Kopanarov, founder of Mirable Marketing and The Women’s Connection, said equal pay can no longer be only a “wishful policy, it has to be based on facts.”

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“I believe we need to support each other more, to support not just women in our industries, but all industries and close the gap throughout all business,” she told Global News.

Are Canadian women pushing for pay raise?

The Indeed survey showed that 42 per cent women feel that it’s easier for men to progress in their careers than women, but 38 per cent said there is actually no difference.

“For the women who do think it is easier for men to progress, a majority see sexism or unconscious bias in society as the leading reason for this,” said Slater.

The polling also found less than half (46 per cent) of Canadian women have ever asked for a raise in their salary, while 31 per cent were comfortable enough to seek a pay bump and 41 per cent were not.

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For those who did, almost 80 per cent succeeded in getting more money.

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Anderson believes that part of the problem is women and gender diverse people generally don’t know what expectations are around pay transparency, so they’re not aware how much other colleagues are earning.

“Knowing women’s discomfort with the topic, the onus is on organizations to empower women with tools and information so they can advocate for themselves and, as the research results show, succeed,” said Slater in the report.

Slater told Global News that employers can better support women by including salary bands on job postings and share them internally.

This will help not only close the pay gap, but also improve retention and attract talent, she said.

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“It’s important for Canadians to move past the uncomfortable nature of discussing pay in order to create pay transparency, as this can be a key pathway to helping eliminate pay inequality for all, not just women.”

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Mental health and work-life balance are also major concerns for women in Canada, Indeed polling showed.

While most are facing or have experienced mental health challenges at work, only half feel comfortable enough to let their manager know about it.

Farrah Khan, executive director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Right, said workplaces need to offer better support services to women facing “constant pressure” in the office and at home as they juggle multiple responsibilities.

“What we need is (for) women to not have it all without the support,” she told Global News.

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“This is not about you having a nice bubble bath and a self-care day or… getting a nice soap. This is about systemic change.”

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