Nearly three quarters of Canadians want pay transparency

A new national survey on pay equity shows a majority of Canadians know there is a wage gap and think there should be policies to eliminate it

The gender wage gap is being thrust into the spotlight, as high-profile women—from Hollywood stars to news correspondents—come forward with cases of pay inequity. In Canada, the gap in wages between men and women ranges from about 8 per cent to 31 per cent, depending on the calculus. For women of colour, trans women, Indigenous women and those with disabilities, that number is even higher. Amid rising pressure for fair wages, women in Canada are likewise speaking out, and the Trudeau government has promised new legislation to fortify decades’ old pay equity legislation for federally regulated employers.

In January, Maclean’s and Insights West conducted a survey to gauge Canadians’ attitudes on and experiences with the gender wage gap. We polled 875 working men and women, with data statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. Here’s what we found:

Canadians know there’s a wage gap

Most Canadians (62 per cent) believe a gender wage gap exists. That is, men and women doing the same or similar work and have the same skill levels do not get paid equally. Women are far more likely to feel this way: 75 per cent of women believe there’s a gender wage gap, compared to 49 per cent of men.

Canadians want pay transparency

Nearly three quarters of Canadians (73 per cent), including 81 per cent of women, would be comfortable with their salary being made public if it could reveal unfair discrepancies between men and women’s wages.

Women don’t negotiate better pay

Only 11 per cent of women have tried to negotiate a higher salary after suspecting they were being paid less than a male colleague. Of those who tried, 41 per cent said they eventually got a higher salary. “I was not given the same health benefits as other employees as my company because it was assumed I would be under my husband’s plan,” said one woman from Alberta who tried negotiating for fair compensation. Another respondent from British Columbia said: “Ultimately, I got a higher salary than I had, but still not as high as what my male counterpart was earning.” Women aged 55 and older were more successful (65 per cent), as were women in B.C. (74 per cent).

Women do more work in the home

More than half of respondent (53 per cent) think full time working women spend “much more time than men” on duties like housework and child care. The genders were split on this question: While 68 per cent of women believed they did far more childcare and housework, only 36 per cent of men felt the same way.

Men feel more pressure to excel at work

Of those polled, 41 per cent said men face more social pressure than women to excel in their career. Only 30 per cent of women agreed, compared to 52 per cent of men.

Many doubt the wage gap will ever close

Nearly a third of women polled said the issue will never be resolved. Men are more optimistic: 19 per cent said we’ll achieve gender wage parity within five years, compared to 10 per cent of women who felt the same.

Canadians want better pay equity policies

The vast majority of Canadians who responded think there should be new legislation that guarantees equal pay for work of equal value in Canada: 87 per cent of women agreed with this, including 84 per cent of women aged 18 to 34.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.