Windsor has Canada's largest pay gap for women in jobs using tech skills: report

Women make $39,000 less than male workers in Windsor's tech industry, according to a new report.

Women make 58 per cent of what men make at tech jobs in Windsor

Workforce WindsorEssex is working to recruit and retain tech talent in the region. (Colin Côté-Paulette/Radio-Canada)

The pay gap for women working tech jobs in Windsor is the highest in Canada's metropolitan areas, according to a report prepared by the Brookfield Institute using data from Statistics Canada. 

The report said the average female tech worker in Windsor makes around $39,000 less — or 58 per cent — than what the average male makes.

The report also shows that Windsor women make up 16 per cent of the workforce that uses tech skills in their job, which is close to the national average.

The average tech worker is paid $88,770, or nearly twice as much as a non-tech worker in Windsor, according to the report.

Close behind Windsor is a $37,600-gap in Greater Sudbury and $31,800-gap in Thunder Bay.

Numbers 'disheartening' 

"It's definitely disheartening because I know we can do better as a community," said Sarah Roddy, who is leading the new Windsor chapter of Canada Learning Code (CLC).

The organization aims to introduce people to coding who are not represented in the tech industry.

"It's not a good feeling at all because I'm very Windsor proud," said Roddy, who pointed to a previous study that placed Windsor as the worst city to be a woman in 2016 and 2017.

"We all like to believe we're doing the right thing and that we're treating others equally so I think this would be a shock to other people in the industry as well."

Report aims to spark conversation

The report used data collected from Statistic Canada's 2016 census, and it defined tech jobs by certain skills.

"We're going to choose skills that are directly involved in the use and production of technology at a sufficiently high level," said Viet Vu, an economist at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship. 

"If an occupation has a high requirement of just one of the skills that we choose, then that should be good enough to be a tech worker."

Those skills were listed in the report as follows: Interacting with computers, computers and electronics, engineering design, engineering and technology, programming and telecommunications. 

Vu said other reports have looked at jobs that "sound tech, including things like programmers, even graphic designers without much thought," whereas this report includes jobs with tech skills, which some people may consider to fall under manufacturing.

In this report, 24.13 per cent of the tech occupations are mechanical engineers, which make up five per cent of tech occupations in Canada. 

"There seems to be this transformation of workers and the kind of skills that's required to work in that exact same factory than you needed 20 or 30 years ago."

Wage gap not isolated to tech

While the report focuses on tech, Vu said the findings around the gender wage gap are not limited to those careers.

"That's not necessarily a problem that's endemic or isolated in tech, because you see other conversations that this gender issue is very systemic, it's across multiple industries," said Vu. 

"So there's a lot of opportunities as well, especially in a place like Windsor, where the industry is changing where there's a lot of conversations about development and investment to be addressing that gender issue more broadly and not necessarily just in tech."

Doug Sartori, a tech consultant and founder of Windsor Hackforge, said the way the report labels tech jobs brings in a lot of what are normally called automotive jobs. 

Viet Vu is an economist with the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"I think it's a very reasonable way for them to slice the numbers," said Sartori, who calls those jobs in the report the jobs of the future.

He questions why those jobs, which will "become more and more important" to Windsor's economy with time, have such a wage and gender gap.

Addressing the problems

"We may have a gender problem in this city," said Sartori, citing the same reports that Roddy recalled about being a woman in Windsor. 

"I know there are people who get it. I know there are people out there working hard on these issues," he said. 

"But I think that it's time for the community as a whole to really recognize that we have some challenges here that we're not going to address by looking the other way."

Roddy, who said the events run by CLC have been well-attended and gained traction in the community, said she didn't notice the pay gap when she first started because salary is usually a private matter. 

"I'm sure if they saw this report they would not be all that happy, but the impression I have been getting is that most people feel like they're being paid what they should be paid."

She suggests people support female leaders in the industry to push for change, something she's noticed with her work at CLC. 

"The community so far has been fantastic, they've been on my side 100 per cent, reached out a hand even when I'm not necessarily asking for help," said Roddy. 

"I think if we were to do that for more women it would empower them to move up in the ranks and hopefully see that pay gap go away."