Alberta Receives a Poor Grade For Gender Wage Gap

Alberta recently received a grade in a study released from the Conference Board of Canada, and it was not good.

Their report card compared provinces and territories, as well as 15 peer countries in a number of categories including economy, education and skills, innovation, environment, health and society.

One of the most striking statements in the report is how bad Alberta measures when it comes to measures of equity. One of the worst? The gender wage gap, where we received a D grade.

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The report pointed out that Alberta has a difference in median weekly earnings of close to 25 per cent between men and women, making it the third-highest gender wage gap of all regions in the report.

But the gender wage gap wasn’t the only area where Alberta faired poorly in terms of wages.

We also received a C grade for the immigrant wage gap with nearly a 26 per cent gap between immigrants and Canadian born citizens. There was also a 66 per cent wage gap between people with disabilities and those without.

Craig Alexander is the board’s senior vice-president and chief economist. According to CBC News, he said that these numbers indicate some key social challenges in Alberta.

"Improving labour market opportunities and conditions for disadvantaged groups can help the province boost social and economic performance," he said.

One way to do this is through unions. It is well known that unions set the bar when it comes to wages for women, immigrants and those with disabilities.

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Unions have played a major role when it comes women’s rights in the workplace, including the Teamsters with contracts that have lead the way when it comes to gender equality. According to the Canadian Labour Congress, union members earn on average $5.28 per hour more than workers without a union and women earn $7.10 per hour more on average with a union.

A collective agreement can ensure that all workers are treated equally and have rights to protect them in the workplace.

Unions are also very much involved in social activism, fighting to make sure that our government and society are treating all people fairly. With continued unionization, we can push for Alberta to go from a D to an A.

Women Still Face Barriers Moving Into Leadership Roles In The Workplace

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the mandate that his cabinet would have gender equality – 15 men and 15 women – many Canadians were excited about the very public example of women in leadership roles.

Trudeau said it was important for women to be given an equal voice on Parliament Hill, with more agendas moving forward on women’s issues.

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Women will be able to give their perspective, ‘because it’s 2015.’

However, in 2015 there are still very little women in leadership roles in Canadian workplaces.

Randstad Canada’s fourth annual Women Shaping Business study found that ‘nearly three-quarters of working Canadian women are in roles below the management level.’

And what was cited as the number one barrier to leadership? An employer’s fear of absence due to family obligations.

Faith Tull, senior vice president, human resources at Randstad Canada said that in order to promote gender diversity in more senior roles ‘Canadian employers need to enhance their offerings to alleviate workplace stress related to family obligations.’

"Making leadership opportunities accessible and attractive for women starts with nurturing a work culture of flexibility, openness and empowerment," she said.

Not being backed by a union can also make things more difficult. With union representation also comes the security in knowing you will not be denied a promotion into a leadership role, paid an unfair wage or terminated because of your gender or family obligations.

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Studies have shown that being a member of a union can help narrow the gender wage gap for women. Union members earn on average $5.28 per hour more than workers without a union and women earn $7.10 per hour more on average with a union.

All of these are important factors, as the study found more than three-quarters of working Canadian women ‘believe there is a divide compared to men in the workplace when it comes to salaries, influence in making important decisions, promotions, and getting the best jobs, tasks or projects.’

Trudeau set a great example, but we still need to take a closer look at the barriers women face moving into leadership roles in Canada.