While Canada’s gender pay gap has steadily improved since the late 1970s, women’s ongoing under-representation among the top 10 per cent of Canadian earners is accounting for “a substantial and growing share of the gender gap in total annual earnings,” according to a new Statistics Canada study.

The study analyzed Canadians’ earnings between 1978 and 2015. It showed that while the gender pay gap -- which is the average annual earnings of employed women as percentage of the average annual earnings of employed men -- rose from 54 per cent in 1978 to 69 per cent in 2009, it has hovered around that latter number ever since.

“(T)raditional factors that account for the gender earnings gap, such as education, work experience, occupation and unionization, continue to leave a substantial portion of the gap unexplained,” Statistics Canada said in its study. “(T)he under-representation of women among top earners appears to account for a growing portion of the gender earnings gap.”

In its analysis, Statistics Canada grouped workers into four earnings categories: the bottom 90 per cent, the next nine per cent, the next 0.9 per cent and the top 0.1 per cent, who had an average income of over $2 million in 2015.

While Statistics Canada found that overall “gains were made in the representation of women” across the workforce between 1978 and 2015, women still “remain significantly under-represented in each top earnings group.”

More specifically, in 2015 men still outnumbered women by about seven to one in the top 0.1 per cent earnings group, by nearly five to one in the next 0.9 per cent and by three to one in the next nine per cent. By contrast, women represented just over half of all workers in the bottom 90 per cent of earners.

“In this context, the under-representation of women among top earners as a single factor, accounted for 61 per cent of the gender earnings gap in 2015,” the study ultimately found. “With increasing earnings inequality in top incomes, further improvements in the representation of women among top earners will likely be necessary for the continued decline in the gender earnings gap in the 21st century.”

Stephania Varalli, co-CEO of Women of Influence Inc., a group that advocates for workplace equality, says that while the world has “come a long way” since the first International Women’s Day was held in 1975, more recently, “progress has stalled in many ways.”

“If you look at the pay gap, I mean in Canada we’re still experiencing over 31 per cent pay gap for women; 95 per cent of leadership roles in companies are still held by men,” Varalli told CTV News Channel on Friday. “So there (are) definitely markers that we need to be doing better on.”