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The wage gap for women in Canada’s tech sector is only getting worse: report | CBC Radio

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The wage gap for women in Canada’s tech sector is only getting worse: report | CBC Radio

As It Happens6:45The wage gap for women in Canada’s tech sector is only getting worse: report

When Viet Vu first calculated the gender pay gap for women in the Canadian tech industry, he was blown away.

Despite recent efforts to boost equity and diversity in the field, the pay gap between men and women tripled over five years between 2015 and 2021, according to a new report from Toronto Metropolitan University.

As of 2021, the average woman in the industry was making roughly $20,000 less than her male counterpart, up from $7,200 five years prior. 

“I thought that I had made a coding error,” Vu, the report’s co-author, told As It Happens host Nil Köksal. “I had to check the number again and again.”

Vu is the acting director of The Dais, a public policy organization at the Toronto university behind the new report called “Canada’s Got Tech Talent,” which is based on Canadian Census data. 

While the report found increased representation for immigrants and racialized groups in Canada, it also found continued salary disparities for Black and Indigenous workers, several other visible minority groups, and non-permanent residents. 

Diversity initiatives are not enough 

The report found that, even when factoring in things such as switching jobs and having kids, the wage gap persisted. 

Marissa McNeelands, the chief executive and co-founder of women’s tech collective Toast, says that proves the only viable explanation is that “the people in power controlling salary decisions are letting women get paid less.”

The findings did not come as a shock to Saadia Muzaffar, founder of TGC, a Canadian non-profit that advocates for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

In fact, she says TGC’s own data over the last seven years show the same pay disparity. And it’s one that’s even more stark for women who also belong to other marginalized identities, she said.

“What this shows us is that while we can roll out DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] initiatives and advocacy campaigns to address the skewed worker demographics in STEM, if these efforts are not firmly tethered to accountability measures … we will not make the progress we claim we want,” Muzaffar told CBC in an email.

A woman with short curly black hair leans her face onto her hand and peers into the camera.
Saadia Muzaffar, founder of TGC, a non-profit that advocates for women science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). (saadiam.com)

By accountability measures, she means things like pay transparency, and  strategies that focus not not just on hiring underrepresented people, but also keeping them around — and promoting them.

“DEI efforts can mean that experienced talent, particularly if they are immigrants, get brought into entry-level jobs and then get stuck there,” she said.

Muzaffar says the majority of women in STEM — 52 per cent — are immigrants. But those same women face worse outcomes for employment and salary.

“Imagine our largest talent pool for in-demand innovation sector jobs, facing the worst outcomes across the board? A bad deal for all involved, including employers and the Canadian economy,” she said.

Immigrants, overall, make up 44 per cent of the tech industry, according to the report, and earn an average salary of $88,000, just slightly below non-immigrants at $89,800. But non-permanent residents, it found, are lagging at $52,000.

Black, Indigenous people workers paid less

When it comes to race, Vu says the picture becomes more complicated.

“If you look at the overall representation of the tech sector in employing people with visible minority identities, it’s actually doing really great. There are more tech workers with visible minority identities who work in tech than outside of tech,” he said.

But, he says, there are stark differences within that broad category.

The report defines “visible minority identities” as South Asian, Chinese, Black, Filipino, Arab, Latin American, Southeast Asian, West Asian, Korean, and Japanese.

Overall, workers in those groups made an average of $78,800 a year in Canada in 2021 compared with $93,000 for those not considered to be part of a visible minority group.

Arab Canadian workers had an average salary of $98,581, more than any other group, including non-minorities. Japanese and Chinese Canadians were not far behind, at $92,082 and $91,525, respectively.

Portrait of a smiling man against a white backdrop
Viet Vu is the acting director of The Dais, a public policy organization at the Toronto University. (Submitted by Viet Vu )

But Black workers, Vu said, “are not doing so great in tech right now.”

Black workers had an average salary of $70,955 in 2021. That’s up from $63,000 in 2016, but still accounts for the largest pay gap among the identified minority groups. 

The average salary for an Indigenous person in tech was $72,000. That’s $14,000 less than non-Indigenous tech workers.

Indigenous people were also hugely underrepresented in the field. While 4.8 per cent of Canadians work in tech, only 1.4 per cent of Indigenous people in Canada have careers in the industry.

What are the solutions?

Vu says he hopes people don’t take away from this report that tech is an industry for marginalized people to avoid, or that diversity initiatives are a waste of time.

“Often these initiatives are led by the people who are underrepresented themselves in the tech sector,” he said.

“And quite frankly, they’re always going to be outnumbered. And if we are to solve this example with a gender issue, men in the tech sector absolutely must play a crucial role.”

These programs also need to be paired with practical measures, he said, like gender-blind parental benefits, and access to childcare.

Putting in the work to narrow these gaps, he says, is well worth the effort.

“What I often tell men in the tech sector is: ‘Guess what? You’re losing out on an opportunity to work with some of the most brilliant minds in the country by basically making it such an alienating space,'” he said.

“And so actually enjoying an inclusive workspace isn’t actually about doing anyone any favour. It’s actually creating opportunities.”

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