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Who are the working women in Canada's top 1%?

Released: 2019-01-21

Even though working women are now more educated than working men, they are still outnumbered in top income groups, accounting for one in five workers in the top 1% in 2015.

Statistics Canada's Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics today released the study "Who are the Working Women in Canada's Top 1%?," which is now available through the centre's hub.

Research shows that characteristics such as education, work experience and occupation continue to leave a substantial portion of the overall gender earnings gap unexplained. Some analysts point to the underrepresentation of women in top earnings groups as a further factor contributing to the overall gap. This study provides the first gender-based analysis of workers in the top 1% in Canada—those employed with a total income of $270,900 or more, based on the 2016 Census of Population, and provides new information on the socio-economic characteristics of women who have broken through the glass ceiling. The results of this study will be updated as new information becomes available.

Working women in the top 1% are younger and more educated than their male counterparts

Working women in the top 1% in 2015 were relatively younger than their male counterparts, and had higher levels of education. Specifically, 74.2% of women had obtained a bachelor's degree or more, compared with 70.0% of their male counterparts. Further, women were more likely than their male counterparts to have studied in fields such as health or related fields, social and behavioural sciences and law.

Conversely, women in the top 1% were less likely than men to have studied architecture, engineering and related technologies and business, management and public administration.

Working women in the top 1% are almost twice as likely as their male counterparts to work in health occupations

Major occupations among people in the top 1% included senior managers, physicians, financial workers and lawyers. The widest occupational gender gaps for workers in the top 1% were in management and health. Consistent with patterns for the overall working population, women in the top 1% were almost twice as likely as their male counterparts to work in health occupations, which accounted for 20.3% of women in the top 1%, compared with 11.4% of men.

Women were also more likely than men to work in business, finance, and administration occupations, which accounted for 22.6% of women and 15.3% of men.

Conversely, men in the top 1% were more likely to work in management, occupations held by 41.5% of men and 31.0% of women, with notable gaps in senior management. Women represented one in seven senior managers in the top 1%.

Among workers in the top 1%, women were about three times less likely than their male counterparts to work in natural and applied sciences and related occupations. Information on the length of time individuals had worked in their occupation or job is not collected in the census.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Distribution of working individuals in the top 1% by sex and selected broad occupational groups, 2015
Distribution of working individuals in the top 1% by sex and selected broad occupational groups, 2015

Visible minorities and Indigenous people are less represented among workers in the top 1%

Relative to representation in the total working population, immigrants were relatively well represented in the top 1%, accounting for about one in five workers in the total population and in the top 1% in 2015.

By contrast, both visible minorities and Indigenous people were less represented in the top income groups. For example, about one in seven working women in the top 1% belonged to a visible minority group, compared with one in five in the total working population.

Working women in the top 1% are less likely than their male counterparts to have a spouse or common-law partner

Gender differences were also observed for family status and presence of children. Working women in the top 1% were less likely than their male counterparts to have a married spouse or common-law partner in 2015, accounting for 77.3% of women and 88.4% of men. At the same time, working women in the top 1% were somewhat less likely than their male counterparts to have children in the household, and when they did, they had fewer of them. Among core-aged workers in the top 1%—those aged 25 to 54—52.3% of women had two or more children, compared with 62.9% of men.

Family status and the presence of children influenced gender differences in hours worked. Women and men in the top 1% who were unattached or without children worked similar hours during the week prior to Census Day.

However, there were differences among those with children or with a married spouse or common-law partner. For example, women in the top 1% with one child or two children worked an average of 42 hours in the week prior to Census Day, about 5 hours less than their male counterparts.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Family status for the top 1%, by sex, 2015
Family status for the top 1%, by sex, 2015

Women in the top 1% have lower median and average incomes

Even with a higher level of education, working women in the top 1% had lower median and average incomes than their male counterparts in 2015.

On average, working women in the top 1% had a median income of $362,300, while the median income reached $393,200 for men. Gender gaps in income were wider for senior managers and those in business, finance and administration occupations, while they were narrower in health, where salaries are more influenced by government policies.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Average income for workers in the top 1% by sex and selected broad occupational groups, 2015
Average income for workers in the top 1% by sex and selected broad occupational groups, 2015

Sustainable Development Goals

On January 1, 2016, the world officially began implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — the United Nations' transformative plan of action that addresses urgent global challenges over the next 15 years. The plan is based on 17 specific sustainable development goals.

The study "Who are the Working Women in Canada's Top 1%?" is an example of how Statistics Canada supports the reporting on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. This release will be used in helping to measure the following goal:

  Note to readers

Information on the relationship between the gender pay gap in Canada and the underrepresentation of women in top income groups was taken from the article "Top Earnings Inequality and the Gender Pay Gap: Canada, Sweden, and the United Kingdom," written by Fortin, N., B. Bell, and M. Böhm, as part of the journal Labour Economics.

Products

The research paper "Who are the Working Women in Canada's Top 1%?," which is part of the Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series (Catalogue number11F0019M), is now available. The study is also available through the Statistics Canada's Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics.

Contact information

For more information contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca).

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Elizabeth Richards at 613-863-4623; (elizabeth.richards@canada.ca), Analytical Studies Branch.

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