Women aged 25-54 actively sought employment at record highs in 2022 and reached 81.6% employment by the end of the year. It’s important to evaluate what employment actually looks like for many women, particularly with the gender wage gap and persistent pay inequities.
Gender wage gap: what is it?
The gender wage gap is the difference in people’s average earnings based on gender. It exists across industries and professions, and it is often worse for racialized women, Indigenous women, and women with disabilities.
Many factors contribute to the gender wage gap. Here are a few:
- Pay inequity – exists when unequal pay is given for equal work
- Unequal access to advancement opportunities and higher paying jobs – women are often grossly underrepresented in higher paying professions and senior level roles, and often receive lower levels of mentorship than men, speaking to unconscious biases around the transfer of specialized knowledge
- Limited flexibility in workplaces – particularly around childcare and caregiving needs that continue to fall predominantly on women; women provide childcare at a higher rate than men and represent 67% of caregivers providing 20 or more hours of support per week
- Unpaid work – women are often responsible for more unpaid work activities than men, averaging 25.2 hours per week compared to men at 16.8 hours
These factors influence women’s decision making about employment and labour market participation (looking for work, staying in a job, etc).
What does this mean for women in our communities?
- On average, women make 25.7% less than men in Canada
- B.C. has one of the largest gender pay gaps in Canada with women making, on average, 28% less than men
- In Kootenay Boundary the gap is 30.6%, in Central Kootenay 25.7%, and in East Kootenay 35.7%
- B.C. is one of four provinces without either pay equity legislation or pay transparency
To better reflect all Canadians, the most recent Stats Canada census used gender terminology inclusive of identity and expression to include non-binary and transgender persons in their information gathering, noted as women+ and men+. In the Kootenay Boundary, women+ had an average income of $39,960 compared to men+ earning $57,550 last year, a difference of almost $20,000.
Central Kootenay women+ averaged $39,200, and men+ earned an average of $52,750. In the East Kootenay, this gaps widens the furthest with women+ earning $43,560 and men+ $67,700. These figures highlight that there is a lot of work to do to reduce the gendered wage gaps in our communities.
Progress is happening, but it's too slow and not enough. In December, StatsCan reported decreases in both household income inequality and the gender wage gap. Even with these drops, the national wage gap between men and women is still $3.60 per hour. This works out to about $7,500 gross income per year less for women working full-time (40 hrs per week, 52 weeks per year) than men working the same hours.
Pay inequity between women and men is gender-based discrimination and injustice. It is also only one factor that contributes to gendered wage gaps and is proven to be deeply detrimental to women’s ability to achieve economic equality.
It will take 267 years to close the economic gender gap worldwide at the current rate of progress, according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
What can be done?
Women are not responsible to drive this change yet should be engaged in identifying the solutions needed to drive that change. Removing systemic barriers to achieve pay equity and eliminate gender pay gaps involves areas such as:
- Government and employers must prioritize legislation that supports equity for women – this includes promoting pay transparency and implementing and maintaining universal childcare initiatives
- Women must be given the opportunity to secure higher paying jobs and career advancement opportunities
- Employers must promote and normalize flexible working conditions such as remote or hybrid work and flexible work hours
- Employers must provide comprehensive benefits including paid sick time, optional flex days for personal use, and designated childcare/caregiving benefits and supports
Are you an employer?
Taking action on any of these can set change in motion. In a market that is chronically short on available workers, making work more accessible and equitable for women just makes sense. These actions are critical to support options for women to continue to enter the labour force at record high rates and remain competitively employed.
These initiatives promote diverse and inclusive workspaces and opportunities to dismantle systemic barriers for women. Don’t you want to be a part of that?
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