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Study: Gender gaps: The effects of pay transparency and women in STEM occupations

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Released: 2019-09-16

The fact that women earn less than men is one of the most persistent and salient features of labour markets around the world.

One explanation is that the gender pay gap persists in part because it is hidden, that is, because men and women in a given workplace do not always know the wages of their co-workers.

The under-representation of women in some high-paying occupations such as executive jobs and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is another contributing factor.

Two new studies by Statistics Canada, released in the agency's Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics, shed light on these issues.

The study titled "Pay Transparency and the Gender Gap" is the first Canadian study that quantifies the degree to which pay transparency laws reduce the gender pay gap.

The study focuses on university faculty members at Canadian universities. Pay transparency laws, which give the public access to the salaries of individual faculty members if they exceed specified thresholds, were introduced in different provinces at different points in time.

Using detailed administrative data from the University and College Academic Staff System, 1970 to 2017, the study documents three key findings. First, the introduction of pay transparency laws in some provinces resulted in a slower growth rate of faculty salaries—by approximately 1 to 3 percentage points—relative to provinces that did not introduce these laws. Second, the laws reduced the gender pay gap by 2.2 to 2.4 percentage points, which is roughly a 30% reduction on the gender pay gap of 7% to 8% that existed in the university sector at the time of the first series of transparency reforms in Canada. Third, the effect of pay transparency on average wages and the gender wage gap is more pronounced in unionized workplaces.

The second study, titled "A Gender Analysis of the Occupational Pathways of STEM Graduates in Canada," presents sex-disaggregated statistics of the occupational pathways of STEM graduates.

The study examines for the first time in Canada the degree to which STEM graduates move into and out of STEM occupations over a 10-year period, through a gender-based lens. To do so, the study uses panel data drawn from the 2006 and 2016 censuses of population.

The study examines the occupations held in 2006 and 2016 by a specific cohort of individuals who were aged 25 to 54 and had completed a college, CEGEP, or university program in STEM fields of study in 2006.

In 2016, 41.5% of male STEM graduates in this sample worked in STEM occupations, compared with 22.5% of their female counterparts. The gender gap is partly driven by men and women selecting different STEM fields of study. Graduates of engineering programs have a higher likelihood of working in a STEM occupation than graduates of physical and chemical sciences and biological, general and integrated sciences.

Women are more likely to exit their STEM occupations than men. For example, 34.7% of women employed in STEM occupations in 2006 had moved to non-STEM occupations by 2016, compared with 26.4% of their male counterparts.

Third, the wage growth of women and men who remained in STEM occupations was not significantly different from that of their counterparts who moved to non-STEM occupations by 2016. These results indicate that while STEM occupations may be higher paying, on average, than non-STEM occupations, STEM graduates who leave STEM occupations do not necessarily experience lower wage growth than their peers who remain in STEM occupations.


The research papers Pay Transparency and the Gender Gap" and "A Gender Analysis of the Occupational Pathways of STEM Graduates in Canada" which are part of the Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series (Catalogue number11F0019M) are now available.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of the study "Pay Transparency and the Gender Gap," contact Derek Messacar (709-351-1018; To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of the study "A Gender Analysis of the Occupational Pathways of STEM Graduates in Canada," contact Kristyn Frank (613-864-0694;, Social Analysis and Modelling Division.

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