Stubborn pay gap for women persists worldwide

The growth of women's equality in the workplace continues to advance at a glacial pace, with the World Economic Forum estimating it could take 118 years for the pay gap to close.

Canadian women outstrip men on education, but average wage is 82% of men's

While millions of women have moved into the workplace worldwide in the past 10 years, their pay barely budged, according to a study by the World Economic Forum. (Reuters)

The growth of women's equality in the workplace continues to advance at a glacial pace, with the World Economic Forum estimating it could take 118 years for the pay gap to close for women around the world.

​More than a quarter of a billion women have entered the workforce in the past 10 years, but progress on closing the gap has stalled, with their pay rising by just three per cent in that period, the forum said in its study of the global gender pay gap.

Women are only now earning the amount that men did in 2006, a global average of $11,000 US, compared with $20,500 US for men.

In Canada, the report estimates the average male earns the equivalent of $40,000 US, while women earn $32,916.

Canada far down ranking

The WEC left Canada out of the top 10 in its global ranking of equality of the sexes — our country comes in at No. 19 — in part because of a very low score over the numbers of women in legislatures and in managerial positions.

The World Economic Forum found that women comprise only 36 per cent of legislators, senior officials and managers in Canada, though data was collected before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed a cabinet that was half female.

It also points to the persistence of the wage gap for women, whose average earnings are 82 per cent of men's earnings. In similar jobs, women earn about 72 per cent of what men earn, the WEF report found.

This gap persists despite very good access to education, with 34 per cent more women than men going on to post-secondary education.

Canada comes in ahead of the United States, which is ranked No. 20, but behind countries such as Iceland, Norway and Finland who come in the top of the rankings.

Board diversity in Canada

That news comes a day after the Canadian Board Diversity Council found that 19.5 per cent of corporate board members of Canada's 500 largest companies are women.

That number is a 2.4-percentage point improvement from 2014 and may indicate that the "comply-and-explain" policies adopted by securities regulators to encourage more diverse boards may be having a difference.

"If this pace of change continues, we will see gender parity at the board level in 13 years, in 2028," Pamela Jeffery, founder of the CBDC, said in her analysis.

Jeffery said diversity on boards of directors helps make company stronger, by providing unique points of view and improving competitiveness.

"It is embarrassing when you think that we're competing globally against companies who have the benefit of diverse teams. Research shows that diverse teams drive better financial performance," Jeffery said in an interview with CBC's The Exchange.

Too many board seats are filled by men looking across the table and asking their colleagues, 'Who do you know?' she said.

Jeffery expressed concern that only half of Canada's 500 largest companies have a plan in place to improve the diversity of their boards. And 109 of those 500 companies have no women on their boards, she said.


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