Women and the pay gap

Shocking stats about women and the pay gap


It may be 2017, but gender parity is still not happening in Canadian workplaces. Recent Statistics Canada data shows that in yearly earnings, Canadian women working full time earn 74.2 cents for every dollar that full-time male workers made (or 25% less). Also:

  • Canada’s gender pay gap is larger than the global Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development average
  • In a global gender gap index by the World Economic Forum, Canada ranked 35th (falling from 19th place two years earlier) behind several countries including Lithuania, Latvia and Rwanda.
  • The gap in annual earnings between men and women has barely budged over the past 20 years in Canada, even as education levels among women have surpassed those of men.
  • At the current rate of change, the global economic gender gap won’t be closed for another 170 years.

So what does this mean for all of us?

From an economic point of view, this pay gap carries long-term consequences for all of us since depriving women of equal pay hurts their ability to save. With longer life expectancies, this also means women are living longer on a reduced retirement income. And if that wasn’t enough bad news, when women are paid less than men they feel devalued in the workplace and are more likely to drop out of the workplace entirely. Companies then lose a productive worker in an economy that is desperate for talent.

The Conference Board of Canada has estimated that by the end of this decade Canada will face a shortage of 1 million skilled working people. Immigration will fill some of this gap but so would getting more women into the workplace and incentivizing to keep them there.

Only 25% less?

Compounded over an entire career, this gap makes a huge difference in the amount of money people will have saved for retirement and will be able to use to support their families. Based on a gender wage gap of 31.5%, a woman would have to work 14 additional years to earn the same pay a man earns by age 65.

Women’s lower earning power means they are at a higher risk of falling into poverty if they have children and then become separated, divorced, or widowed. They are less able to save for their retirement and more likely to be poor in their senior years (women 65 or over are more likely than their male counterparts to live on a low income).

Why do we pay women less?

Several factors, actually, including the fact that women are less likely to negotiate for a higher salary and more likely to work part-time than men because they take on child-care and elder-care responsibilities. They are also more likely to experience work interruptions, such as maternity leave, in their careers and for many the high cost of childcare makes it hardly worthwhile to return to work (if you can find suitable childcare at all).

Change very often comes from the top and a lack of women in leadership positions or on company boards across Canada is also a factor. Last year, 45% of listed companies in Canada had no women on their boards. Another reason is discrimination, or the more prevalent unconscious bias many of us have that’s ingrained throughout organizations.

Care-giving consequences

At some point in their lives, most family members have provided – or will provide – care to a family member or friend with a long-term health condition, disability or aging need. And while generations today are sharing these responsibilities more equally, caregivers are still more often women. On average, women in Canada devote more time to care-giving tasks than men and are more likely to experience negative consequences as a result of their care-giving.

The stats don’t lie:

  • 30% of all women in Canada said that they provided care in 2012.
  • Women are significantly more likely than men to report having spent 20 hours or more per week providing care (17% and 11%, respectively).
  • An estimated 72% of women care-givers aged 45 to 65 in Canada are also employed.
  • Women reported experiencing a variety of employment impacts as a result of their care-giving responsibilities: 30% reported missing at least one full day of work; 6.4% retired early, quit or lost their paid job; and 4.7% turned down a job offer or promotion.
  • Estimates show that women care-givers in Canada lost an aggregated $221 million in wages annually between 2003 and 2008 due to absenteeism, reducing work hours, or leaving employment entirely.
  • Care-giving time can also result in lower future work pension or future CPP due to reduced hours at work.
  • Among women care-givers who have access to flexible work arrangements, half (47%) feel they cannot utilize these options without having a negative impact on their careers.

For a stronger economy and a more egalitarian society it’s time to talk solutions to the pay gap.  We’ll have some in our next post on this topic so check back soon.

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