According to “The Best and Worst Place to be a Woman in Canada,” a report released earlier this year by the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), the wage gap between men and women in Vancouver is one of the worst in the country.
The study examined 20 of Canada’s largest metropolitan areas. Each city was ranked based on how men and women compare in five different categories: economic security, leadership, health, personal security and education.
The report measured economic security based on the gap between men’s and women’s levels of employment, income and poverty.
It was in these specific categories that Vancouver showed discrepancies in comparison to the other Canadian cities. Women in Vancouver were reported to have lower than average levels of full-time work, as only 42 per cent of working women in the city had full-time jobs.
Out of the top 20 cities in the country, Vancouver has one of the largest wage gaps as women earn 30 per cent less compared to their male counterparts.
The poverty rates among women in Vancouver also ranked higher in comparison to men. Fifteen per cent of women live below the Low Income Level in comparison to 13 per cent of men.
Men also remain dominant, as only four out of 11 elected officials at a municipal level are women. In senior management positions, women only hold one third of these high-ranking jobs in comparison to men.
Overall, Vancouver ranked 13th out of the top 20 cities in Canada. Quebec City came in on top, and Edmonton placed last.
Vancouver’s poor ranking raises the question as to why women in the city are facing such a large gender-wage gap, poverty and limited opportunity in career based leadership positions.
Ingrid Kolsteren, a representative from the group Women Transforming Cities, explained that there are several key factors that contribute to the economic inequality women face in the work place.
“It’s not that women aren’t doing the same types of jobs as men and making less money. It’s the kinds of jobs that they are doing,” Kolsteren said. “There are a lot of jobs that require higher levels of education and that just isn’t possible to attain when you are not making enough money.”
Kolsteren also highlighted that women of colour, with disabilities or who have experienced violence in the forms of physical and mental abuse also become marginalized in society, making it harder for them to gain opportunities for well paying jobs for themselves and their families.
It does not help that Vancouver is the most expensive city in Canada. The living wage here is at a staggering $20.10. This means that for a family of four to live with basic necessities, each adult would have to make that amount per hour. Women often have to work multiple jobs, which do not include full time benefits, to support their families. When women struggle to make enough money, this also impacts the wellbeing of their kids. Furthermore, a lack of affordable childcare greatly effects women’s availability to work a sufficient amount of hours.
The 2013 Child Poverty Report Card states that the 2011 child poverty rate for children in British Columbia was at 18.6 per cent, significantly higher than the 13.3 per cent national average. When women financially struggle, this has a direct effect on how their children succeed in school, socially and in the future.
The gender-wage gap does not have ramifications on men because they often have the opportunity work in different job areas, which allow for longer hours and higher pay. This is because child and family care, and gender-discrimination are usually setbacks that women face in the work place.
Evidently, the gender-wage gap issue in Vancouver is one that is systemic and requires community-based support for women to gain the resources to help them financially succeed.
Women Transforming Cities works to make cities a place of growth and opportunity for all women and girls through community engagement, inclusive policies and equal representation. The group advocates for a higher living wage in Vancouver, and childcare coalition. They also hold free Café events where anyone is able to come in and engage in open discussion about women’s issues. This is an excellent way to create awareness and advocate for solutions in regards to problems like the gender wage gap.
Vancouver’s ranking in this latest CCPA study shows that it still has much to do in order create fair economic opportunities for women in the workplace. As Kolsteren noted, if a city works better for women and girls, it will work better for everyone. Community based discussions are a way to begin progress.
However, in the long run, a change in the living wage, affordable child care and more educational opportunities need to be established in order to help diminish the gender–wage gap in the city.
Feature Image: Women in the Workplace via Sheryl Sandburg