Mind the gap: Women less likely to ask for pay rise despite inflation concerns

New research sheds light on Canadian pay gap – and how employers can bridge it

Mind the gap: Women less likely to ask for pay rise despite inflation concerns

Female employees are considerably less likely to ask for a raise, according to recent research from Robert Half Canada. Data released earlier this month found that just 56% of Canadian female workers plan on asking for a pay increase this year compared to 64% of their male colleagues.

In addition, few women are negotiating salaries, and 35% of women surveyed reported have never negotiated their salaries, compared to 28% of men.

This is indicative of a bigger issue around pay equity – and employers need go further in championing female talent, says Deborah Bottineau managing director at Robert Half Canada.

“Our data reveals that 41% of working women are looking, or plan to start looking, for a new role before the end of the year, and wanting a higher salary is cited as the top reason why,” she tells HRD. “However, female workers are also looking beyond salary when making career decisions. Perks and benefits, growth opportunities, organizational culture and flexibility play a role in supporting them too.

“Companies should offer flexibility in the workplace, ensure they make professional development plans, partner with their female workers to define their long-term objectives, and provide challenging assignments and skill-building opportunities that will help them reach their goals without leaving the company. Showing that the business understands their needs, and is invested in their growth and wellbeing, is paramount to attracting and retaining female talent.”

Provincial pay gaps

And while perks are important, flexibility perhaps more so than others, there’s no substitute for pay. Especially considering current inflationary concerns. According to the data, eight in 10 women are concerned about inflation outpacing their salary growth this year—a somewhat higher percentage than the 74% of men who reported feeling the same. Is this additional financial stress on women indicative of a larger gender issue at play in Canada?

According to data from Canada’s Pay Equity Office, the gender wage gap in Ontario currently sits at 13. Comparatively, the gender gap is highest in Alberta and British Columbia sitting at 17%, with Prince Edward Island enjoying a modest four percent gap.

“Sadly, women in Canada still earn on average only 89 cents for every dollar a man earns, and research shows that women of colour earn even less,” Angela Champ, SVP of HR at Alpine Business Maintenance. “Pay transparency and pay equity legislation in provinces such as BC and Ontario are a great step in addressing this gender gap, but we need organizations to step up and voluntarily commit to equal pay for work of equal value.

“Aside from simply being compliant with pay equity legislation, reducing or eliminating the gender gap will position you as an employer of choice for those talented women who may be overlooked - wonderful for your talent attraction efforts. Paying people equitably for work of equal value instils a sense of fairness in your culture, thereby reducing employee relations complaints and increasing retention of key employees.  It will also improve your corporate reputation, which can have a positive impact on your organization's goodwill.”

Pay Transparency Act

So what’s to be done? Well the Pay Equity Act goes some way in helping bridge that gap – with all federally regulated employers with over 10 employees having to plot and display a ‘pay equity’ plan by Sept. 3, 2024. This plan should identify job classes, determine whether that job is filled primarily by male, female or gender-neutral individuals, and determine the value of the work.

In British Columbia, the Pay Transparency Act was rolled out in an attempt to bridge the gender pay gap, especially for women of colour, Indigenous Peoples, women with disabilities and non-binary individuals. The Act means that employers must include salary ranges in advertised jobs.

And while it’s a step in the right direction, it’s somewhat slow progress considering the cost of living crisis. For Champ, she tells HRD that employers need to take a closer look at their pay packages and adjust accordingly – not take one sweeping ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

“Too many leaders worry that pay equity means indiscriminately paying everyone the exact same amount, but that's not what pay equity is about,” she says. “Within a solid compensation approach that includes pay equity, you can still have ranges that acknowledge people's experience and performance levels. 

“Partnering with your compensation team to create realistic salary ranges that pays employees equitably for work of equal value will address those gender gaps while recognizing some employees are developmental and rewarding those star employees on your team.”