World Economy

Gender Inequality Costs Canada $150b

Women are underrepresented in Canada’s workforce.Women are underrepresented in Canada’s workforce.

Taking steps to fix gender inequality in the workplace could give Canada’s economy a $150 billion shot in the arm, a major consultancy says. In a report published Wednesday morning, the McKinsey Global Institute found that gender inequality in Canadian workplaces isn’t just holding women back, it’s bad for the economy as a whole.

Even incremental progress in getting more women into managerial positions, high-skill STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, entrepreneurship, or even just into the workforce in the first place, could be worth as much as $150 billion more to Canada’s economy by 2026.

That’s an extra 6% worth of growth compared to what the consultancy says would happen if no new steps are taken. “Increasing women’s equality is not just a moral imperative [and] it’s not just the right thing to do,” McKinsey & Company’s associate partner Tiffany Vogel told CBC News in an interview. “It’s good business practice.”

In the report, McKinsey looked at 69 large Canadian corporations who collectively employ more than a half a million people. Despite outnumbering men in higher education, women still significantly lag behind their male counterparts as they enter their working years, and are drastically underrepresented in terms of being promoted into higher-paying positions.

Doubters of the gender gap like to suggest that much of the wage gap can be explained by individual life choices as opposed to being caused by nefarious conspiracies. But McKinsey’s report finds troubling evidence that there are systemic problems at play.

Despite outnumbering men at university and colleges, women make up just under half of all entry-level employees but only 25% of vice-presidents and 15% of CEOs.

“At almost every stage of the pipeline, women’s likelihood of being promoted to the next level is smaller than men’s,” the report found. Women are 30% less likely to get promoted out of an entry-level position, and 60% less likely to move from middle management into the executive ranks, Vogel said.

While there are pockets of progress, on the whole, the report does not paint an encouraging picture.  In 2009, women in Canada earned on average 74.4% of what men earned. In 2010, it was 73.6%, and in 2011, it was 72%, roughly where it remains today.

Doubters of the gender wage gap often argue that women earn less than men mainly because they work fewer hours, as a group, than men do. But this report says the data doesn’t back that up.

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