Women pay inequality in Western Canada

We have seen incredible strides for women in the workforce.  Fifty years ago in 1962 women were mostly still homemakers and just starting to stretch their wings in terms of the labour force.  Today we see in Canada that 50.4% of the labour force is comprised of women, edging men out of the majority by half a percent.  In addition, the market offers more programs directed at encouraging women in the workforce.  For example, based on a test market run in Toronto, Edmonton is the first to officially run a mentoring program aimed at encouraging and supporting women interested in municipal politics (http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/city_organization/opening-th...). 

Despite the gains over the last 50 years for women in the workforce, labour market wages still demonstrate a significant struggle.  What the data shows (StatCan data, Feb 2012) is that wages for men and women across all Canadian industries increased equally (2%) from January 2011 to January 2012, however, on the western front two distinct anomalies are evident in British Columbia (BC) and Alberta.

In BC wages did not rise equally in 2011 as in Canada. Wages for men rose 5% while wages for women remained flat.  This moved the BC wage gap between genders from 13% to 18% on average.  BC was below the national average of 14% in January 2011, however at 13% BC was still several points higher than most Canadian provinces (PEI was notably the lowest gap at 5%) and a leap to 18% may be an indication of concern as BC starts to regain economic momentum.  John Perry, Executrade VP for BC, identified that in a tight labour market, regardless of gender, retention will become a critical component of any organization.  Unfair wage practices will impact the ability to retain strong employees in the BC market.  “Removing gender wage discrepancies is not just a matter of values and ethics, but is a matter of retention and organizational best practises.”

In Alberta wages rose equally as they did across Canada for each gender, although, the gap did not close and remains the highest gender wage gap in Canada at 21% - 7 percentage points higher than the Canadian average. Kelly Martin, Executrade VP for Northern Alberta, identified that this gap may be misleading in Alberta due to the type of labour and jobs behind the numbers, with significant focus on oil and gas, the labour needs may skewing toward male career interests and inflate the wage gap.  However, Kelly was very quick to point out that regardless of the positions, “ethical and fair wages practices need to be at the forefront of recruiting practices and client interaction.  We owe this to our clients and our candidates.”

There are many possibilities for the gap in Western Canada including job orientation, the glass ceiling effect, culture, and even unintended wage discrimination.  Recruitment firms have an equal responsibility to help drive the ideals we esteem as a nation and culture.  Be advocates for your clients and candidates.  As recruiters there is greater access to different offers based on gender; gaps should be identified and addressed. 

Just as clients seek ethical recruiters, recruiters should also seek clients with ethical standards.  As professionals we owe it to our clients and candidates to be advocates of equality.  Review your organization’s code of ethics; let it mean something to you and your clients – it is that simple.

Simplicity would suggest, if you want a job done right, ask a specialist.



Your Recruiting Specialist





John Perry: http://ca.linkedin.com/in/johnwperry

Kelly Martin: http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/kelly-martin/9/b99/214

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