Women still earning less

Wage gap remains wide amid shifts to remote work: report


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Women are changing industries for higher paying jobs with more remote work options amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, on average, they’re earning less than male counterparts — and access to child care could be a factor.

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Women are changing industries for higher paying jobs with more remote work options amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, on average, they’re earning less than male counterparts — and access to child care could be a factor.

Women in finance, insurance, real estate and rental leasing make roughly 85 cents to their male counterparts’ dollar, according to a Royal Bank of Canada report released Tuesday. The women it studied have post-secondary degrees.

“Oftentimes, wage gaps are even more pronounced when people are highly educated,” said Carrie Freestone, an economist with RBC who authored the report.

Nearly 200,000 women across Canada moved into industries which require less in-person contact, including finance and tech sectors, Freestone found.

She didn’t have Manitoba-specific numbers.

More women than men have entered such industries in recent years. Women accounted for 60 per cent of jobs created in finance, insurance and real estate during the pandemic. Even so, they received less than half — 46 per cent — of the sector’s wage increases.

Freestone attributes the pay difference to a lack of female leadership.

“Men are still occupying these higher-paid positions,” she said. “We want to make sure women have equal access.”

Women hold roughly one-third of senior leadership positions across Canada despite representing half the workforce, she added.

Mothers with children under six years old consume less than three per cent of senior leadership roles, while fathers in the same category account for around 10 per cent.

“I’m lucky,” said Tanya Palson, Manitoba Building Trades’ first female executive director.

Palson waited a year to get her first-born child into daycare. She added her name to the wait list while pregnant in 2019.

This month, Palson began taking her second child to the daycare. To secure a spot, she had to start paying in December, when she was home on maternity leave with her daughter.

However, Palson has flexibility at work.

“(The daycare) literally (doesn’t) have enough staff to watch the number of kids that are being dropped off,” she said. “We’re always waiting for that phone call of ‘We don’t have enough staff today.’”

Finding child care is often a barrier for women wanting to work in construction, Palson said.

“A lot of the time, we’re starting at 7 (a.m.) and ending at 6 (p.m.) or it could be longer,” she said. “It’s hard enough to find a spot for child care in general. (It’s) near impossible to do that with working construction shifts.”

Women and men are generally paid the same wages in the industry, as per the union’s agreement. However, women will earn less if they’re working fewer hours to care for their children, Palson noted.

Around four per cent of construction workers in the province are female.

Manitoba Building Trades announced Palson, 30, as its first female executive director Monday. The organization was established 114 years ago.

“I’m still, most often, the only woman in the room,” Palson said, adding she feels comfortable with everybody. “Representation matters, and different viewpoints matter. It’s always those first few trail blazers chipping away at the old guard that make a huge difference.”

The number of Canadian working-age women in the labour force hit a record high — 85.6 per cent — in January.

It comes after women working dropped to a 30-year low during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eighty per cent of workers who left high-contact industries — notably hospitality — during the pandemic were female, according to RBC’s report.

“We really have come a long way,” Freestone said. “(We should) also still be mindful of the gaps that we… need to bridge.”

On average, women take two years longer to pay off student loans, according to insolvency agency Bromwich+Smith.

Taz Rajan, a community engagement partner with the company, attributes the extra time needed to women’s lower pay and child rearing, including maternity leave.

Rajan also cited the “pink tax” — female hygiene products costing more than male items. “If you can buy the male version… grab the male version.”

A Robert Half recruitment agency poll found nearly three-quarters of female Canadian workers want a salary increase by the end of the year. One-third of the 1,100 women surveyed would like more flexibility.

In 2021, the average woman earned 89 cents for her male counterpart’s dollar, according to Statistics Canada data.


Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.

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