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Most Canadian Firms Not Tracking Gender Pay Gap, Advancement Rates

Bay Street in Toronto. Image: The Canadian Press.

The majority of Canadian companies are not closely watching differences in pay or advancement between men and women and other key measures of progress, according to a report on gender equality in corporate Canada and the U.S.

The Canada−United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders’ commissioned a survey of human resources professionals in Canada and the U.S. and found that just 39 per cent of Canadian companies had accurate data on gender pay differences.

The survey of 150 human resources executives in Canada and 250 in the U.S. also found that 48 per cent of Canadian companies said they do not have accurate data on the percentage of women at the management level.

While corporate commitment to gender diversity is at an all-time high, these survey results point to a “critical gap” between intention and action, the cross-border council said.

“Many companies want to see women advance, but do not approach the goal with rigour and discipline as they would any other business priority,” it wrote in its report released last week.

Pressure to improve gender equality in Canadian workplaces has long been mounting but women continue to be paid less than their male counterparts and are vastly underrepresented in companies top ranks.

Canadian women make on average 74 cents for every dollar of annual salary made by men among the entire working population, according to the most recent Statistics Canada data.

Among the companies on the TSX 60 index, none listed a woman as its chief executive officer in their compensation disclosures for the most recent financial year, according to a Canadian Press analysis of management information circulars.

There were only 25 women out of the more than 300 named executive officers — defined by regulators as a company’s most highly compensated roles, which companies must disclose — of TSX 60 companies, and they were paid on average 64 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts.

It is against this backdrop that the cross-border council was created by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump last year. The council has 10 female executives — half from Canadian companies and the other half from American companies — and its aim is to help women-owned businesses contribute to economic growth, competitiveness, and the integration of the two economies.

The council’s fifth and final report released on Oct. 31 outlined survey findings that showed that many Canadian and American companies have “a lack of essential data that could measure progress and identify potential obstacles to the advancement of women.”

The survey found that just 36 per cent of Canadian companies has a plan to advance women to senior leadership roles, compared to 40 per cent south of the border.

“Equal pay for all is within reach, as it does not require an overhaul of the organization’s goals or a cultural change,” the council said in its report. “The solution is to put in place a thoughtful process that reviews pay and fixes any inequalities identified.”

Meanwhile, it has been just over one year since the emergence of the Me Too movement, which began as a reaction to allegations of sexual harassment against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, that has also put additional pressure on companies to ensure fair treatment of women in the workplace.

The Me Too movement has led to a surge of harassment and discrimination complaints to the Law Society of Ontario, according to a recent report.

Between January 1 and June 30 of this year, the law society’s Discrimination and Harassment Counsel — a service which confidentially assists anyone who may have experienced this from a lawyer or paralegal — saw 125 complaints, up 58 per cent increase from 79 during the same six−month period in 2017.

“The number of contacts to the DHC office increased noticeably beginning in the fall of 2017 as the #MeToo movement emerged,” the counsel wrote in its latest report. “That higher level of contact has been sustained, with a number of callers citing the #MeToo movement as giving them confidence to come forward to report.”

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By Armina Ligaya, The Canadian Press