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Gender balance getting closer at Canadian universities

A Statistics Canada survey found that the number of female and male teaching staff is getting closer to being even

Gary Pearson, Robin Dods, Daniel Dural, Nancy Holmes, Rob Johnson, Bernard Momer and Ian Walker are staff at UBC. Photo by: UBCO
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Reported by Nick Valka

Although in Canadian universities there are still inequalities in pay between female and male teaching staff, the gap in the employment rate is getting smaller.

According to a Statistics Canada survey done over 2016 and 2017, the percentage of women in full-time university teaching staff positions is up to 39.6 per cent, which is up from 36.6 per cent in 2010 and 2011.

Graph showing the numbers of male and female staff in 2010/2011 and 2016/2017. Data from Statistics Canada

Louise Birdsell Bauer, a research officer for the Canadian Association of University Teachers, sees the change in data as a positive step for the staff.

“We’re not achieving gender parity yet but it is good news,” Birdsell Bauer said. “We were happy to hear that.”

The median salary for these positions has also increased in the past six years, from roughly $121,000 to $130,000.

Pay inequality still an issue

However, female teaching staff on average earn five per cent less than their male counterparts.

“There’s still a gender pay gap for professors,” Birdsell Bauer said. “They say it’s explained by years of experience and discipline but I think we need to parse that out a little bit more to see where it’s happening.”

Mona Gleason, a professor in the Department of Educational Studies at UBC, said there’s no way to justify different salaries based on gender identity.

“It’s generally outrageous that there’s still any kind of gender gap,” Gleason said. “We should be looking at our employers at the universities, colleges, the province and asking them, don’t they realize it’s 2017?”

Improvements over the past 40 years

Teresa Omiecinski is the managing analyst of the Statistics Canada survey of 2016 and 2017, however she could not speak on the surveys prior to 2010.

“I can say that since 1970 there has been a sizeable increase in the proportion of women in the field over the last 40 years,” Omiecinski said.

While this is a good start towards positional equality in the post-secondary teaching sector, salary parity will need to continue trending upwards as well.

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