Just the Facts
International Women’s Day, 2020

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Release date: March 6, 2020

International Women’s Day is Sunday, March 8, 2020. This day presents an opportunity to reflect on the progress made toward achieving gender equality and to raise awareness of the work that still needs to be done. A number of recent Statistics Canada publications have highlighted the contribution of women to the Canadian economy and to Canadian society more broadly.

The gender wage gap decreased between 1998 and 2018

Women continue to join the labour force in greater numbers and with higher levels of education. In fact, the employment rate of women in the core working ages of 25 to 54 reached 79.8% in 2019, the highest rate on record since comparable data became available in 1976.Note However, women continue to earn less than men, on average. Comparisons of the hourly wages of women and men, which are unaffected by differences in the number of hours or weeks worked, reveal that the gender wage gap narrowed between 1998 and 2018. In 1998, employed women earned an average of $0.81 for every dollar earned by men.Note In 2018, this figure was $0.87.Note Some factors that explain the remaining gap include differences in the industries where men and women work, and the higher likelihood for women to work part-time.Note Characteristics which helped reduce the gender wage gap include women’s higher rates of public sector work and unionization, and higher educational attainment.Note

Women spend more time than men on unpaid work

Women continue to make important contributions to the wellbeing of their families, the Canadian economy and society—both as paid and as unpaid workers. In 2015, women and men made almost equal contributions in terms of the number of hours spent in both paid and unpaid work. However, the distribution of this work differed between men and women. Employed men spent 5.7 more hours per week on paid work compared with employed women, while employed women spent 4.9 more hours per week on unpaid work compared with employed men.Note Note Despite a trend toward greater equality in the distribution of housework, some tasks such as laundry and meal preparation were more likely to be done by women, with men more likely to do outdoor work and repairs.Note Note Women also spent more time caring for children and were over-represented among caregivers.Note

Women have made advances in education

Between 1991 and 2015, the percentage of women with a university certificate, diploma or degree increased from 15% to 35%.Note In 2015, women made up 58 % of graduates from postsecondary institutions.Note

Chart 1 Distribution of women and men aged 25 to 64 by highest certificate, diploma or degree, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2015

Data table for Chart 1 
Data table for chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1 Women aged 25 to 64, Men aged 25 to 64, No certificate, diploma or degree, High school diploma or equivalent, Trades certificate, College diploma and University certificate, diploma or degree, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Women aged 25 to 64 Men aged 25 to 64
No certificate, diploma or degree High school diploma or equivalent Trades certificate College diploma University certificate, diploma or degree No certificate, diploma or degree High school diploma or equivalent Trades certificate College diploma University certificate, diploma or degree
1991 31 31 10 14 15 31 26 14 9 19
1996 24 30 9 19 19 25 25 15 13 21
2001 19 28 9 21 23 20 26 16 15 24
2006 15 26 9 23 27 16 25 15 17 26
2011 11 25 8 25 31 13 25 16 18 28
2015 9 23 7 26 35 11 25 15 19 30

The increase in the educational attainment of women is important since education has been found to contribute to better employment outcomes for women, which may be particularly important for Indigenous women. Results from the 2016 Census show that employment rates were highest among First Nations, Métis and Inuit women who attained higher levels of schooling, with rates that even slightly surpassed those of non-Indigenous women.Note

Women are choosing different paths to achieving higher education. They are more likely to pursue BHASENote fields of study than STEMNote fields of study. In 2017/2018 women made up 76.8% of enrolments in education and teaching programs and 78.5% of enrolments in health care programs, but only 20.2% of enrolments in engineering programs.Note Overall, women made up 37.8% of STEM enrolments and 61.7% of BHASE enrolments.Note However, women who pursue undergraduate degrees in STEM fields persist in their initial field of study at similar or greater levels than men.Note For example, 87% of women who started an engineering degree persisted in it, compared with 82% of men.Note In addition, women with an undergraduate degree in a STEM field (13%) were about as likely as men (14%) to start a master’s degree in a STEM field within five years of graduation.Note

Women have increased their participation in postsecondary institutions, and they are more frequently full-time academic staff members in these institutions. In 1957/1958, women occupied 11% of full-time academic positions.Note By 2017/2018, they occupied 40% of these positions.Note Although women continue to be less represented at the rank of full professor, the gender distribution is more equal at the lower ranks of assistant professor and below.Note

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Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics Hub

Statistics Canada’s Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics has established the Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics Hub, which allows for easy access to data and analysis disaggregated by sex and other identity factors. Data tables and analysis cover a wide-range of topics, including education, families, income and time use.

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