Gender equality: lever for a company’s success?

According to several studies and the view of some researchers, reducing gender inequality in representation and wages can lead to improvement in business performance. More broadly, it enables better socio-economic development in societies where it has been harnessed. What about Canada?


Last March 8, thousands of Canadians once again marched in the streets for International Women’s Day. Among the claims, equality between men and women in the work world holds a major position since wage gaps are still a reality. According to the Global Gender Gap Report published last year, Canada ranks 19th from the point of view of gender equality out of the 111 countries studied, far behind the Scandinavian countries. In this report, we learn that when a woman earns $1, a man earns $1.52 on average. We also read that the average annual earnings amount to $32,915 for women and $49,809 for men.


Women overrepresented in certain job categories

The business world would win by reducing these gaps in wages and representation in companies. Too many women in Canada are still overrepresented in categories such as part time work and underemployment. And too often women are relegated to the background when it comes to holding positions of responsibility. Sylvie Morel, an economist and professor at the Department of Industrial Relations of the Université Laval in Quebec, is one of these researchers who have theorized on the gender gap as a vector of economic growth. Quoted in the newspaper Le Devoir, she says, by promoting equality, we get a greater contribution of skills, creativity, etc. Companies would then be equipped with a larger and more diversified qualified workforce.

Through her research, Sylvie Morel also observed that more egalitarian societies such as in Sweden, Norway and Iceland have preferred a public service economy, generating development at the top rather than at the bottom, which drives the entire economy by creating quality jobs with high added value. This generates less of an Anglo-American economic model driven by the free market and private enterprise.  


Pay equity programs more or less respected

Across Canada, pay equity policies pursued by various provincial governments are attempting to steadily reduce the inequalities that still exist between men and women. In Quebec, the Pay Equity Act since 1996 has allowed for equal pay for men and women who do different work but of the same values to the company. The law has not been complied with by all Quebec employers.

To clarify this situation, the Pay Equity Commission (CES) has put a pilot project in place aimed at employers who have not conducted their wage review, which was due on December 31, 2010. According to the CES, 3000 companies are still in default. Random checks will be conducted to force businesses to comply with their obligations. Violating companies will incur fines of $1,000 to $45,000. 

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