British Columbia

We found the highest paid civil servants in Metro Vancouver — and they're mostly men

Questions around the gender gap in politics tend to focus on the lack of elected women politicians compared to their male counterparts. But that discrepancy can extend to the backrooms, as well. 

Of people making more than $200,000, just 30 per cent are women

The highest paid civil servant in Metro Vancouver local politics is Sadhu Johnston, Vancouver's city manager, who made $350,003 in 2018. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

Questions around the gender gap in politics tend to focus on the lack of elected women politicians compared to their male counterparts.  

But that discrepancy can extend to the backrooms, as well. 

CBC News looked at the highest paid government employees in all 21 Metro Vancouver municipalities, and found women were consistently less represented at the highest rungs of power.

In 2018, women were the highest paid civil servant in just five of 21 municipalities. Of the 71 employees across the region who made more than $200,000, more than 70 per cent were men, including nine of the top 10 earners.

And there wasn't a single municipality where women held the majority of spots among top-10 wage earners. 

"I think it does speak to a dynamic in politics behind the scenes," said Grace Lore, a lecturer at the University of Victoria who studies gender representation. 

"Those folks are heavily involved in setting priorities and setting policy and doing a lot of the heavy lifting of the work of municipal politics. So who is present there, and the seniority and [salary] that goes with it, speaks to broader patterns in politics."

'Self-perpetuating problem'

In Metro Vancouver elected politics there's often gender parity at the school board level, but things become more male-dominated at council tables, and especially at the mayors' council — where just three of the 21 local leaders in the region are women. 

And a similar situation appears to play out among civil servants in the region.

Of the municipalities where an HR position is among the 10 highest paid roles, 70 per cent are filled by women, and there is near parity among senior positions within parks and recreation departments. But in senior administration, engineering, legal and financial roles in Metro Vancouver municipalities, the positions are overwhelmingly filled by men. 

"We need to think about how this is a self-reinforcing, self-perpetuating problem," said Lore.

"Moving up and accessing those higher positions is more challenging when you have care responsibilities ... and we haven't made the necessary changes."

It's good to be senior staff in Vancouver

Unsurprisingly, the list of the highest paid local officials in Metro Vancouver is dominated by Vancouver roles: of the 16 people with the highest remuneration last year, nine were from Vancouver, including its deputy city manager and assistant city manager.

But average salary for senior officials isn't necessarily tied to the size of the municipality: West Vancouver's 10 highest paid officials had an average salary $27,000 higher than Port Coquitlam's, despite having 70 per cent of its population. 

Salary figures are provided annually by each municipality in their Statement of Financial Information, which requires any employee making over $75,000 to have their name and remuneration listed. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Justin McElroy

@j_mcelroy

Justin is the Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering local political stories throughout British Columbia.

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