Despite increasing participation of women in the Canadian workforce, females are still being paid less than their male counterparts according to a new Statistics Canada study evaluating women in the workplace and wage equality.

The study, released on Wednesday and titled “Women in Canada: Women and paid work,” found that women on average earned 87 cents for every dollar earned by men in Canada in 2015. Relying primarily on data from the Labour Force Survey and focusing on workers aged 25 to 54, Statistics Canada discovered that women made an average of $26.11 per hour compared to the $29.86 men earned on average.

“The gender wage ratio (women's earnings over men's earnings) reflects the broader state of gender equality in society,” the study stated.

Statistics Canada attributed some of the disparity in wages as a result of the tendency for women to work in low-paying jobs versus high-paying ones predominately occupied by men.

However, they also suggested that if the overall occupational distribution of women was the same as men, the average gender wage ratio would remain unchanged, meaning women would still be paid less than men on average for the same work.

Sarah Kaplan, the director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy at the University of Toronto, told CTV News Channel that she agreed with those findings and said the wage disparity between men and women for the same jobs exists in higher-paid positions as well as lower-paid ones.

“Some of it is about the jobs that people go into, but some of it is that we’re literally not valuing women’s contributions in exactly the same jobs,” she said.

Kaplan also suggested that societal expectations for women, such as having flexible schedules for parental duties, often dissuades them from pursuing certain careers.

“If we make the higher-paid professions that are male-dominated unpleasant for women to work in, if we structure them in ways that make it hard for them to also take care of their family responsibilities, then they’re going to be less likely to go into those higher-paid professions,” Kaplan explained.

Statistic Canada’s findings did note that the gender wage ratio greatly improved with higher levels of education. Women with less than a high school diploma only made 74 cents for every dollar earned by men, compared to 88 cents for every dollar earned by men among women with a bachelor’s degree.

Female employment

The data revealed that, although over three quarters of women are employed in Canada, they are less likely to be employed than men. In 2015, 77.5 per cent of women had a job compared to 85.3 per cent of men.

Compared with men, women were also more likely to work fewer hours, have part-time employment and experience more work interruptions such as parental leave.

Women tended to be absent from work more often than men; however, the reasons for the absences differed along gender lines. Females were more frequently away from work for involuntary reasons such as illness, disability or familial obligations, including parental leave, while males were more likely to be absent for other reasons such as vacations.

In addition to the number of hours women worked, Statistics Canada also provided some insight into the types of jobs the majority of women in Canada tend to occupy.

The study found that more than half of women in Canada are employed in “traditionally female” occupations such as teaching, nursing, social work and administrative work. In occupations in areas such as science, technology, engineering and math, the study said that women continued to be outnumbered by men.

The survey noted one promising area of gender parity among public servants, which they credited to federal and provincial employment equity legislation. In 2015, a little more than half of legislators and senior government managers and officials were women. In contrast, only roughly a quarter of senior managers were women in the private sector.

By the numbers:

  • Women made 87 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2015; up from 72 cents for every dollar in 2011
  • The average wage was $26.11 per hour for women in 2015 versus $29.86 for men
  • More than 80 per cent of women (aged 25-54) participated in the workforce in 2015 compared to just over 20 per cent in 1950
  • Men’s participation in the labour force dropped from 97.1 per cent in 1950 to 90.9 per cent in 2015
  • 77.5 per cent of women were employed in 2015 compared to 85.3 per cent of men
  • More than half (56.1 per cent) of women worked in “traditionally female” roles such as teaching, nursing and administration in 2015
  • In the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, women only accounted for 24.4 per cent of workers
  • More than half (54 per cent) of legislators and government managers and officials were women; in the private sector, only 25.6 per cent of senior managers were women
  • Women were more likely than men to be employed on a part-time basis (18.9 per cent versus 5.5 per cent)
  • 47.9 per cent of women were absent from work for involuntary reasons such as illness, disability or parental leave compared to 27.6 per cent of men.