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Gender pay gap in Canada's tech sector almost tripled between 2016 and 2021: study

A man walks though a downtown Toronto office building with other buildings reflected in a window in this June 11, 2019 photo. (Graeme Roy / The Canadian Press) A man walks though a downtown Toronto office building with other buildings reflected in a window in this June 11, 2019 photo. (Graeme Roy / The Canadian Press)
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The gender pay gap in Canada's tech sector almost tripled between 2016 and 2021, amounting to the average salary of a woman in the industry being about $20,000 less than her male counterpart, according to a new report. 

The report called "Canada’s Got Tech Talent" was released Thursday by researchers at The Dais, a public policy organization based at Toronto Metropolitan University.

Among the report's key findings was data revealing the average female tech worker was making $71,400 in 2021 compared with $91,000 earned by their male counterpart. The numbers indicate the gender pay gap among tech workers has widened significantly since 2016, when men earned $7,200 more than women.

Viet Vu, The Dais's acting director of policy and research, said the increase surprised him given the attention that has been paid to equity, diversity and inclusion in recent years.

While everything from pay associated with remote work to seniority can shape the gap, he said a "peculiar" trend also contributed to the figures.

Vu said women in tech who were earning within the 60th to the 80th percentile, such as senior people who are not yet at the executive level, didn't experience any wage growth over those five years.

However, men in the same range saw their earnings jump and those in the higher groups received hourly wage increases of $15 more than women received.

"This is a fascinating thing because we've controlled for so many of these usual suspects, whether that be a new child that arrived or also things like how often people switched jobs," Vu said.

Because the study controlled for all the common arguments Marissa McNeelands hears for why the gender pay gap still exists, the chief executive and co-founder of women's tech collective Toast said the report proves "the people in power controlling salary decisions are letting women get paid less."

Her fellow co-founder April Hicke added the results also reflect how much "performative allyship" permeates the industry and the vast amount of work still to be done to bring parity to the sector.

Women were not the only group of tech workers to experience a pay gap.

When researchers looked at the earnings of visible-minority tech workers, they found those in the group made an average of $78,800 a year in Canada in 2021 compared with $93,000 for those not considered to be part of a visible minority group.

The lowest paid were Black tech workers, who earned $70,955 on average, and Filipino workers who made $73,079.

"For Black tech workers, this is a sad news story where we found that in 2016, the pay gap was about $16,000. Now it's actually about $22,000," Vu said.

Arab tech workers, who had an average salary of $98,581, however, outearned even those not from visible minority groups.

Looking at trends among Indigenous tech workers, researchers found the average salary was $14,000 less than non-Indigenous counterparts making $86,800.

The research The Dais published is based on census data concluding Canadian tech workers earn $40,000 more per year than workers employed in other fields. However, those behind the study say Canadian tech workers still make 46 per cent less on average than Americans.

The study also took a peek at capital gains among Canadian tech workers.

The measure has been in the spotlight since April, when the federal government's budget proposed increasing the "inclusion rate" from one-half to two-thirds for people who see more than $250,000 in capital gains in a year.

The Dais's research suggests the median Canadian tech worker has $84,000 in equity gross value that has not yet been sold and that 1,960 tech workers declared more than $250,000 in capital gains in 2021.

Based on those numbers, the report said 0.20 per cent of tech workers would be affected by the change, compared with 0.15 per cent of non-tech workers.

"A couple of percentage points change or even like a 10 to 20 per cent point change in the tax system is likely not going to fix that 50 per cent pay gap ... with the States," Vu said.

The government estimated the increase would only impact the wealthiest 0.13 per cent and result in $19.3 billion in revenue over the next five years.

However, the prominent members of the tech industry, including the leaders of Shopify Inc. have railed against the changes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 20, 2024.

This is a corrected story. A previous version included a misspelling of The Dais.

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