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Substantial, stubborn gender pay gap persists across Canada: Study

Employers who want to attract, retain the best workers need to take proactive, transparent action to eliminate disparity


March 5, 2020
By Talent Canada Staff

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Photo: leolintang/Getty Images

Women continue to earn less money than men — with a substantial and stubborn compensation gap between the genders, according to new Canadian research.

Based on self-reported numbers, the study commissioned by ADP Canada found that women earned an average pre-tax salary of $51,352 in 2019, while men reported an average pre-tax salary of $67,704 – a gap of 24 per cent.

When examining additional compensation (bonuses, profit sharing), men reported receiving over double the amount that women received. In 2019, men received an average of $7,646 in additional compensation, while women received $3,250. This marked a 25 per cent increase for men and an 17 per cent decrease for women, when compared to 2018.

“A substantial compensation gap persists between men and women in Canada – a gap that doesn’t entail salary alone,” says Natalka Haras, legal counsel at ADP Canada.

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“The workforce of tomorrow is aware today, to look for gender biases in companies’ practices and policies. For organizations to succeed in attracting and retaining the very best of workers, they will need to be transparent and take the proactive steps required to achieve pay equity and equality.”

The data

ADP Canada Q3 study (CNW Group/ADP Canada Co.)

Worker perception on the wage gap

Despite the gap, many respondents felt their organization is acknowledging the bias and prioritizing pay equality. According to the findings, 68 per cent of working Canadians believe pay equality is a priority for the management of their workplace. However, men are more likely to believe their organization walks the talk, with 79 per cent of men believing their workplace compensates women and men equally, while only 67 per cent of women believe the same.

This sentiment was echoed when asked if Canada will achieve pay equality during their careers: men were more optimistic (53 per cent versus 40 per cent of women).

Parental leave

Despite the new parental sharing benefit that launched in March 2019, women are still much more likely to take parental leave than their male counterparts (42 per cent versus 16 per cent).

Overall, Quebecers took parental leave most: 41.6 per cent compared to 24 per cent average across the rest of Canada.

ADP’s study found that of respondents who had taken maternity or paternity leave – which was mostly women – nearly one in three (31 per cent) felt it restricted their career growth. Respondents from Alberta were most likely to feel this way (52 per cent), while Manitoba and Saskatchewan were least likely (22 per cent).

Pay equity moving forward

While there is still significant room for improvement, federal and provincial governments continue to work on advancements in pay equality and equity, including the expected entry into force of the Pay Equity Act this year.

The act affects federally regulated companies and takes measures to secure equal pay for work of equal value. Meanwhile, pay equality, which is equal pay for equal work at the same organization, offers protection to every Canadian employee under each jurisdiction’s legislation.

Key findings

Some of the most notable findings from the survey include:

  • Women are significantly more likely to have a pre-tax salary below $50,000, while men are significantly more likely to be earning $50,000 or more.
  • Millennials are most likely to switch employers if they were to find out pay equity is not being achieved (49 per cent). This is a strong sign that the workforce of tomorrow strongly supports equal compensation in their workplace
  • Men are more likely to be a manager or executive in their workplace (28 per cent of men were managers or executives, compared to 19 per cent of women)
  • Women outnumber men in the health-care sector (19 per cent versus five per cent men), while men are significantly more likely than women to be working in the technology/IT industry (11 per cent men versus four per cent women) and manufacturing (10 per cent men versus three per cent women)

Regional findings

Atlantic Canada

  • Most likely to believe Canadian companies will achieve gender pay equality while they are still in the workforce (54 per cent compared to national average of 47 per cent)
  • Most likely to believe that women and men are compensated equally in their organization when it comes to additional compensation (88 per cent compared to 68 per cent average)

Quebec

  • Quebecers are the most likely to have taken parental leave: 41.6 per cent compared to 24 per cent average across the rest of Canada
  • Most likely to believe that women and men are compensated equally in their organization when it comes to salary (80 per cent compared to 74 per cent national average)

Ontario

  • Least likely to believe that women and men are compensated equally in their organization when it comes to salary (67 per cent compared to 74 per cent national average)
  • Least likely to believe that women and men are compensated equally in their organization when it comes to additional compensation, such as bonuses or profit sharing (60 per cent compared to 68 per cent average)

Manitoba and Saskatchewan

  • Least likely to believe gender pay equality is a priority for management at their organization (62.5 per cent compared to 68 per cent national average)
  • Least likely to believe parental leave has restricted their career growth and financial compensation (22 per cent compared to 31 per cent average)

Alberta

  • Most likely to have left an organization due to a colleague of equal standing but different gender receiving greater compensation (12 per cent compared to national average of eight per cent)
  • Most likely to believe parental leave has restricted their career growth and financial compensation (52 per cent compared to 31 per cent average)

British Columbia

  • Respondents were least likely to believe Canadian companies overall will achieve gender pay equality while they are still in the workforce (39 per cent compared to an average of 47 per cent)
  • Second most-likely to believe parental leave has restricted their career growth and financial compensation (46 per cent compared to 31 per cent average)

Survey methodology

An online survey of 755 working Canadians (including those working full and part time) was completed between January 31 and February 3, 2020, using Leger’s online panel. The margin of error for this study was +/-3.6 per cent, 19 times out of 20.