Why is financial literacy a gender issue?
Globally, there is a persistent gender gap in financial literacy. Financial literacy is understood as having the skills, knowledge, and capacity to make informed financial decisions. Studies show that while the gap is closing, women in Canada continue to have lower financial literacy scores than men.
The gender gap is a little baffling, especially in countries like Canada where more women than men are attending University. But, differences in financial literacy matter. With women living longer than men and already confronted by many systemic barriers to economic security, financial literacy can lead to better financial outcomes, including savings, investments, wealth accumulation and planning for retirement. Understanding the gender gap in financial literacy is then key to developing strategies to close this gap and improve women’s economic outcomes.
So, what’s behind the gender gap in financial literacy? With an increasing number of studies into the issue, there are a few common explanations found across literature.
1. Stereotype threat: Described as the impact of internalizing a stereotype attributed to a group of people, studies have found that stereotypes and attitudes about women’s ability to understand and manage finances directly influence women’s confidence when performing financial tasks.[i],[ii] For example, studies have found that stereotypes undermine women’s performance on financial tests[iii] and that although women frequently make good financial decisions, they feel more anxiety than men when doing so.[iv] When asked about their own financial knowledge, women tend to score themselves lower than men.[v]
2. Socio-economic differences: High levels of education and income are associated with higher levels of financial literacy. This is not to say that people living on lower incomes do not have significant financial knowledge and skills. However, studies show that across genders, as income increases, so does financial literacy. Interestingly, financial services are often designed for and directed towards middle and higher-income households. This is problematic for women, especially some populations of women, including Indigenous, racialized, immigrant and women living with disabilities, who are more likely to be engaged in precarious and low-income employment.
3. Financial decision-making roles within households: The responsibility and decision making of household finances is still very gendered. Women are more likely to be responsible for daily financial spending and allocation, yet less likely to engage in the decision making of large financial decisions in the household.[vi] A study by Statistics Canada found that in households where the male partner is mainly responsible for the long term financial management, the male partners performed better on financial literacy questions than women. Some believe that differences in financial literacy are the result of women acquiring less financial knowledge because they are less involved in financial decision making in the home.[vii]
While some of the causes of the gender gap are still contested, they do all have something in common. Despite investments in financial education and programming, gender inequalities – including the myth that women are bad with money – continues to uphold the gender gap in financial literacy.
What does financial literacy have to do with gender-based violence?
Women’s economic wellbeing and safety are deeply connected. Women’s economic insecurity can increase their risk of victimization. It is also a barrier to their safety. We hear consistently that women’s lack of access to money and housing is a key barrier to leaving violent relationships. Violence also has financial consequences. It often results in health costs, legal costs, lost wages, and relocation expenses. Violence can lead to poor credit, coerced debt, and a diminished ability to work.
A common form of gender-based violence, economic abuse, can be hidden by, and reinforced with, gender norms around money. The stereotypes and attitudes around women and money can be used by abusive partners to perpetuate economic abuse – a form of financial gaslighting. Likewise, economic abuse can be difficult to identify because of the gender norms that suggest that men should be managing and making decisions about finances in households.
Women lag, or perhaps just appear to lag, in financial literacy. With gender inequalities at the root, financial literacy programs and solutions should be focusing on tackling the dangerous gender norms and shifting the narratives that are sustaining this gap.
[i] Tinghög, G, Ahmed, A., Barrafrem, K., Lind, T., Skagerlund, K., and Västfjäll, D. (2021). Gender differences in financial literacy: The role of stereotype threat. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization. 192. 405-416.
[ii] Carr, P. B., and Steele, C. M. (2010). Stereotype Threat Affects Financial Decision Making. Psychological Science, 21(10), 1411–1416.
[iii] Tinghög et al., 2021.
[iv] Lind, T., Ahmed, A., Skagerlund, K. et al. (2020). Competence, Confidence, and Gender: The Role of Objective and Subjective Financial Knowledge in Household Finance. J Fam Econ, 41, 626–638.
[v] Bucher-Koenen, T., Lusardi, A., Alessie, R., and Van Rooij, M. (2017) How financially literate are women? An overview and new insights. Journal of Consumer Affairs,51(2),255–283.
[vi] OECD (2013) Addressing women’s needs for financial education, https://www.oecd.org/daf/fin/financialeducation/OECD_INFE_women_FinEd2013.pdf
[vii] Bucher-Koenen, T., Lusardi, A., Alessie, R., and Van Rooij, M. (2017).
Engaging people with lived experience of gender-based violence is central to WomanACT’s work. Survivors’ personal experiences of systemic barriers is key to creating solutions to overcome them. In addition, survivors’ stories, experiences, and ideas are powerful tools for education and advocacy. Understanding organizational value to engaging people with lived experience, and being open to learning and change, is important to creating organizational readiness to engage people with lived experience.
Improves service quality
Organizations that incorporate people with lived experience into their service design and evaluation shows to improve program outcomes, including program quality and service user satisfaction. People with lived experience provide a personal perspective about how services and initiatives are received based on their own intersecting identities. Organizations can consider a range of opportunities for people with lived experience across all organizational structures to influence different types of decision making across service delivery, such as boards, proposal and program development or evaluation teams.
Increases organizational capacity
Creating collaborative spaces for team members and people with lived experience to jointly explore priority areas for community and system solutions encourages bi-directional knowledge exchange. It also increases the accountability of team members to improve program outcomes. For example, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has a program called From Surviving to Advising that aims to pair senior psychiatry residents with service users in recovery to promote mutual growth and understanding. Joint spaces have the added advantage of grounding decision-makers and humanizing discussions that may sometimes get lost in bureaucracy.
Builds trust with the community
Community engagement can be strengthened when facilitated by people with lived experience as they tend to prompt genuine and authentic conversations grounded in their personal experiences. Building trust takes time and can require frank and difficult conversations. For example, WomanACT’s AGES project, which working to improve access to services for senior women experiencing violence, engages senior women as advisors. The senior women also operate as a conduit between the organization and community members and use a snowball approach to engage senior women and community groups.
Promotes trauma-informed organizational development
Trauma-informed organizational development requires organizational processes to evolve from an individual hierarchical-driven approach to collaborative community approaches. Community approaches encourage organizations to intentionally consider how all structures (e.g., boards, leadership, HR, frontline) and services can include people with lived experiences. People with lived experience have insight into how power can manifest and what can be considered to reduce organizational power imbalances. Just as their engagement in community spaces promotes humanizing conversations and breaks down hierarchies, it also does so in organizations.
Survivor engagement with WomanACT
WomanACT engages survivors in advisory, researcher and participant roles across our work. We are often seeking women and gender diverse people with lived experiences of gender-based violence, housing insecurity and poverty to fill advisory and researcher roles. Survivors receive training and are compensated for their time. If you are interested in hearing about upcoming opportunities to engage in our work, please sign up to our mailing list.
Canada wants highly educated immigrants and has been more successful than other countries in attracting them. On average, immigrant women, for instance, have higher levels of formal education than Canadian-born women. However, when immigrant women arrive in Canada, they are confronted by a labour market that is unprepared to make use of their skills and talents.
In a study involving 365 immigrant women professionals in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) released by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) earlier this year, 65% of those surveyed were found to have at least a master’s degree and, on average, had 8 years of work experience on arrival. Yet nearly half took more than six months to land their first job, and, to do so, almost 3 in 5 had to downgrade their qualifications. Surveyed immigrant women also had to accept unpaid work or internships to get “Canadian experience” (43%) and code-switch by changing or shortening their name (22%), adjusting their accent (15%) and altering their appearance (14%) to downplay their identity in a stigmatized group.
As part of the same study, TRIEC also surveyed 608 hiring managers and decision makers in the GTA, with the support of Forum Research. The majority said their organizations have an equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) policy.
Why then do workplaces continue to fail immigrant women? The short answer is because they do not consider intersectionality.
Intersectionality shows how social identities (e.g., gender, race, ethnicity, immigration/refugee status, age, etc.) and the roles associated with them can overlap to create unique experiences, barriers and opportunities for each person. EDI strategies largely aim for gender balance. They support the recruitment and advancement of dominant-group women, but do not address the historical oppression of multiply marginalized groups that persist in our societies and reinforce workforce exclusion. Strategies that do not prioritize the progress of the most marginalized identities in the workplace are incomplete.
Immigrant women, especially those who are racialized, face considerable challenges to workplace inclusion. Particularly in this period of tight labour market conditions, employers must familiarize themselves with these challenges and then develop appropriate, organization-specific solutions to address them.
Immigrant women are underestimated
“I feel Canada is portrayed as a place that is open to immigrants but the job market isn’t that open … I had a hiring manager tell me that they know I am qualified for a higher role but they need to build trust in my abilities.”
The data paints a bleak picture. In the GTA, 36% of executives across all sectors are women, 14.5% are racialized, 6% are immigrants and 2% are racialized immigrant women. Two in five immigrant women professionals surveyed were in lower level positions than they held in their countries of origin and just 1.0% made it to the C-suite in Canada. Likewise, 26.5% of immigrant women professionals were in entry level positions, compared to just 4.6% pre-immigration. Additionally, about a third of surveyed immigrant women felt that their chances for promotion to senior leadership ranks were much worse than that of their colleagues.
Recruiting and advancing immigrant women, particularly those who are racialized, means including them at the highest levels of an organization where decisions are made. Bringing immigrant women in at levels below their qualifications and demanding that they constantly prove their worth is unacceptable. Research shows that greater diversity is associated with better business performance. The onus must be on organizations to ensure they leverage the full potential of immigrant women.
What can employers do?
Immigrant women are excluded
Bias and discrimination can show up in many ways in the workplace. About 3 in 5 surveyed immigrant women professionals experienced exclusionary behaviours in their day-to-day interactions at work (or “microagressions”), for reasons they primarily attributed to their language or accent (34%), immigrant background (27%), race (24%) and gender (14%). Though immigrant women are not a homogenous group, many of them navigate similar stereotypes in the workplace. Some interviewees explained how they have been labeled as “too aggressive” — a characteristic accepted of men but not of women in the Canadian workplace. Others faced regular comments about their English skills, are interrupted or talked over in meetings and have had their judgement questioned.
Similar to negative, stereotypical feedback, vague feedback also does not help immigrant women enter or advance in the labour market. Several interviewees noted that hiring managers often “ghost” candidates or struggle to give direct feedback that newcomers would find helpful to their job search or promotion strategy. Effective feedback is important for inclusion.
While workplace practices may not intend to be exclusionary, they can end up being so. For example, social events that centre on alcohol or activities requiring knowledge of Canadian cultural references may make it difficult for some newcomers to participate. This can hinder their sense of belonging and make them feel like they are not valuable enough to consider.
When individuals lack the cultural competency to work with peers of different backgrounds, they may revert to preconditioned biases and stereotypes, or avoidance all together. “Unconscious bias” is often used to refer to attitudes held subconsciously that affect behaviours towards others. The term callously justifies harmful actions, centering the experience of the offender without acknowledging the impact on the person harmed. Organizations must respect the experiences of all employees, not just the dominant group, in order to foster inclusion.
What can employers do?
Immigrant women are tokenized
Immigrant women often hear about employers’ commitments to inclusion in internal communications and promotional materials. However, in practice, they find that inclusion is not prioritized. The most cited motivations by hiring managers and decision makers for an equitable, diverse and inclusive workforce were to increase organizational innovation and agility (34%), to ensure fairness and morality (32%) and to help employers better understand and serve their customers or clients (31%). Yet turning intention into action requires more work. One interviewee commented that her organization does not know how to make use of international knowledge and experience in ways that could benefit their work: “I find the feedback I give — and I provide an international perspective — no one cares. I have gone to the highest levels I can, and it is just smiling and nodding despite the fact that I have heard them say they would love to hear an international perspective … Nothing has been acted upon … There are no follow up questions. It feels like a token gesture.”
What can employers do?
Immigrant women are undervalued
In the GTA, immigrant women earn about 54% less, on average, than non-immigrant men aged 35-44 and 61% less than those aged 45-54. About 28% of GTA immigrant women professionals surveyed did not know how their salary compares to their peers. A similar proportion of respondents (29%) said they are paid less than their peers. In addition, about 2 in 5 immigrant women professionals surveyed said they were treated unfairly at work; the most frequently mentioned reason related to salary/wages (25%).
Immigrant women cannot negotiate away pay inequality. Greater pay transparency is needed to close the gender and immigrant wage gaps.
What can employers do?
Lastly, but most importantly, immigrant women are assets. In the workplace, intersectional experiences must be seen as a strength, not a deficit or challenge to be overcome. Immigrant women professionals are highly skilled, resilient and adaptive. Employers who create environments in which all workers can thrive will set themselves up for success in the future.
The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) helps employers capitalize on the skills and experience of newcomers to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and helps newcomers secure work in their field of expertise. In partnership with corporations, individual supporters, community organizations and governments, TRIEC works to remove barriers to the labour market and to support the retention and advancement of newcomers in the workplace.
Open Letter to All Toronto Mayoral and Council Candidates:
We are a concerned group of non-profit organizations who are ringing the alarm bell on rising poverty and inequality in Toronto. Much of this poverty is gendered, racialized and along neighborhood lines. The pandemic, paired with the rising cost of living and rent has exacerbated inequality in our city – but these are not the only contributing factors. Long before the pandemic began, 1 out of 5 children in Toronto grew up in poverty, the waitlist for social housing was 7 years long, and a subsidized child care spot was hard to come by.
The upcoming Toronto Municipal Election on October 24th represents an exciting moment – an opportunity to get things right. With a new term and a new mandate, an inclusive recovery from the pandemic is possible.
We urge all candidates to reflect on our #VoteEquityTO campaign that will be launched on Monday, October 3rd and fully commit to our policy asks across five key pillars: housing and shelter, transit and internet, decent work, community safety, and community wellbeing.
While the City has taken action to address certain social issues, as evidenced by the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan – looming challenges persist including an increase in community and gender-based violence, homelessness, opioid-related deaths, hate crimes, and child poverty.
There is a greater role the City can and must play to ensure all residents are cared for and that economic growth is inclusive of all community members.
As frontline organizations, we are witnessing a heightened level of crisis in our shelter and housing programs. More community members are experiencing food insecurity, mental health instability and gender-based violence. As nonprofit agencies, we are also struggling to provide services with current funding models – and we are losing talent to public and private sectors because our wages struggle to be competitive.
We know that many women have been pushed out of the labour market because of the pandemic. Many newcomer and racialized women are stuck in minimum wage jobs with little opportunity for career advancement and no access to benefits or paid sick days. Because women continue to assume primary care responsibilities at home and face wage disparities in the paid workforce, they are more vulnerable to poverty, food insecurity and certain forms of violence.
Women and gender diverse people require access to specialized services that are anti-oppressive and culturally-responsive, as well as specific and additional avenues of financial, caregiving and employment support.
Over the past several years, we have heard many commitments made by the City to make Toronto more equitable for all. However, those words have not always turned into action. Last year, the City conducted extensive research into the impacts of the pandemic and produced a series of comprehensive policy recommendations. But many of the recommendations fell to the wayside. What was the outcome of this research? The City is now working on a new Poverty Reduction Strategy – but what has the previous strategy achieved, in concrete terms? The City claims that it is committed to applying an intersectional equity lens in the budget process but has sidelined community voices and made the process even less transparent. The City has created a Gender Equity Office – but the timelines for the Intersectional Gender Equity Strategy have been delayed and the Office is only equipped by two staff members.
We cannot achieve a more equitable Toronto without comprehensive, adequately supported and intentional plans to get there.
What we need is a bold Council to address the crises before us – before the situation gets worse. And we require clear directives from the highest level in the City bureaucracy to prioritize equity, inclusion and poverty reduction for all residents of Toronto.
Toronto must be a leader in addressing the disparities faced by women, girls and gender diverse people. Municipal election candidates have an opportunity to prioritize gender equity. We urge all candidates to reflect on our #VoteEquityTO campaign and fully commit to our policy demands.
Abode Community Service Centre
Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services
Alliance for Healthier Communities
Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario
Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
Canadian Centre for Housing Rights (formerly CERA)
Child Development Institute
Communities for Zero Violence
Community Family Services of Ontario
Council of Agencies Serving South Asians
Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre
Essential Communications Ltd.
Family Service Toronto
FCJ Refugee Centre
Flemingdon Health Centre
Focus for Ethnic Women
Kababayan Multicultural Centre
Miziwe Biik Aboriginal Employment & Training
North York Women’s Centre
Oasis Centre des Femmes
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)
Ontario Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty
Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care
Ontario Nonprofit Network
Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre
Planned Parenthood Toronto
Ralph Thornton Community Centre
Rexdale Women’s Centre
Skills for Change
Social Planning Toronto
South Asian Women’s Centre
South Asian Women’s Rights Organization
South Riverdale Community Health Centre
Times Change Women’s Employment Service
Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness
Toronto Community for Better Child Care
Toronto Shelter Network
Victim Services Toronto
West Neighbourhood House
West Scarborough Community Legal Services
Women’s Health in Women’s Hands CHC
Workers’ Action Centre
Working for Change
About the Vote for an Equitable Toronto campaign
This election, YWCA Toronto, WomanACT, and more than 35 community organizations across Toronto are calling on City Council and Mayoral candidates to commit to advancing gender and racial equity and poverty reduction. Together, we have launched a municipal election campaign called Vote for an Equitable Toronto #VoteEquityTO. For more information and to sign our petition: www.VoteEquityTO.ca
For more information, please contact:
Manager of Advocacy, YWCA Toronto
Telephone: 647 237 7283
Director of Programs, WomanACT
Telephone: 647 639 5801
What is femicide?
The United Nations has recognized femicide as the most extreme form of violence and discrimination against women and girls. Femicide is defined as the killing of women and girls due to their gender. In Canada, in 2020 alone, 160 females were victims of violent homicide, which averages to a woman or girl being killed every 2.5 days. Out of the 128 cases where the accused was identified, over 90% of the perpetrators were men, and in 41% of the cases, the perpetrator was a current or former intimate partner. While there are a variety of risk factors for women and girls experiencing violence, they are often at greatest risk when they are leaving or have left an abusive relationship.
Who is at risk of femicide?
While women are the most at risk of being a victim of intimate partner violence (IPV) and femicide, some women are at greater risk than others. Indigenous women have a greater risk of experiencing violence than non-Indigenous women and are overrepresented as victims of violent femicide. Making up less than 5% of Canada’s population, Indigenous women make up 16% of femicide victims. Older adults also experience unique risk factors for intimate partner violence and intimate partner homicide due to their physical and mental health and increased barriers to seeking and accessing help.
Other risk factors include:
The impacts of COVID-19 on femicide
The number of women experiencing intimate partner violence has increased during COVID-19, with a 20-30% increase in some parts of Canada. During the first lockdown, women’s helpline call centers received an unprecedented volume of calls, and over the span of three months, Canada’s Assaulted Women’s Helpline received 20,334 calls, almost double of that of the previous year (12,352). Police across Canada responding to domestic violence disturbances also increased by 12% over a month in 2020 when the pandemic first started.
What can we do?
In June 2022, the jury at the inquest into the deaths of Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk, and Nathalie Warmerdam delivered 86 recommendations to prevent intimate partner violence. It is time to act upon these recommendations. Recommendation #78 specifically is related to information sharing and “working together with the Domestic Violence Death Review Committees (DVDRC), justice partners, and IPV service providers to develop a tool to empower IPV professionals to make informed decisions about privacy, confidentiality and public safety.” WomanACT’s MARAC project has started some of this important work.
Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC) bring together multiple agencies to share information and respond to high-risk domestic violence cases in communities. MARAC was developed in Wales in 2003 and is now in place in more than 250 communities across the United Kingdom. The model has shown to reduce repeat victimization, increase survivor safety and connect survivors with the support and services they need. WomanACT is leading the implementation of this model in two communities across Ontario. At the centre of multi-agency high risk tables are three key components – risk assessment, safety planning, and information sharing.
Interested in learning more about MARAC or setting up a multi-agency response to high-risk intimate partner violence in the community? We’d love to hear from you.
 Statistics Canada (2016). ‘Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report’. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-503-x/2015001/article/14313-eng.htm
 Thompson, N. (2021). ‘Reports of domestic, intimate partner violence continue to rise during pandemic’. 16 Feb. CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/domestic-intimate-partner-violence-up-in-pandemic-1.5914344
 Quenneville, G. (2022). ‘Jury at triple-homicide inquest makes 86 recommendations to prevent intimate partner violence’. 28 June. CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/coroners-inquest-intimate-partner-violence-renfrew-probation-1.6503862
 Culleton, Kuzyk & Warmerdarm Inquest Jury Recommendations (2022). https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/22072317-inquest
Toronto, ON – A new poll from the WomanACT in partnership with Angus Reid Group shows that experiences of harassment are common on public transit in Toronto. While 86% of transit riders have experienced some form of harassment, it was more common among women, especially experiences of sexual harassment. Women (59%) were more likely than men (22%) to have experienced unwanted sexual looks or gestures, as well as sexual comments (experienced by 50% of women and 19% of men).
The survey of 1550 people in Toronto also found that feelings of safety are impacted by gender and race. 27% of people said they feel unsafe taking public transit. Women were more likely to feel unsafe (30%) than men (23%). This was further impacted by race. Racialized men were more likely to feel unsafe (26%) than white men (19%). Racialized women were more likely to feel unsafe (28%) than white women (23%).
The mode and time of travel also impact how safe a rider feels. The subway was the type of transit where people felt most unsafe when compared to streetcar or bus. Riders also felt more unsafe when travelling in the evening or at night. At night, 57% of men felt very safe or safe, compared to 39% of women.
Public transit riders use various tactics to cope with feeling unsafe, and women are more likely than men to do so. Women said they were often on high alert (59%), used their phone to avoid unwanted attention (46%), avoided public transit in the dark (38%), got off at an earlier stop (37%), traveled with others (32%), or decided not to take a trip at all and stay home (16%) to avoid harassment or feeling unsafe.
The proportion of Torontonians who don’t feel safe taking public transit is alarmingly high,” says Demetre Eliopoulos, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs at the Angus Reid Group, “The fact that women are adapting their travel behaviour in so many ways, to the point where some are just opting to stay home, indicates that there is a fundamental accessibility issue at play here.”
Most of the public transit riders (82%) were optimistic and felt that public transit could be much safer with the correct investments and safety measures. When asked about which proposed safety measures would help end sexual harassment on transit, good lighting, security features such as a cameras and request-stop programs topped the list.
“Tackling sexual and gender harassment requires change at system, organizational and behavioural levels. This is no different when addressing sexual harassment on public transit.” Said Harmy Mendoza, Executive Director of WomanACT. “In addition to transit policies, services and infrastructure that promote safety, it is critical that transit employees and riders can identify harassment and intervene when safe to do so.”
While the majority (95%) of survey respondents said that it was important to have information on how they can intervene, only 56% of respondents reported that they would know how to intervene if they saw someone in danger on public transit.
Other survey findings:
About this survey:
In partnership with WomanACT, Angus Reid Group conducted an online survey among a representative sample of n=1550 adults in Toronto. The respondents are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, this sample plan would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
For over 30 years, WomanACT has been working closely with governments, organizations, and communities to eradicate violence against women through research, policy, education, and community mobilization. WomanACT uses research to promote public dialogue, transform practice, and shape policy to advance women’s safety and gender equity.
About Angus Reid Group:
Angus Reid is Canada’s most well-known and respected name in opinion and market research data. Offering a variety of research solutions to businesses, brands, governments, not-for-profit organizations and more, the Angus Reid Group team connects technologies and people to derive powerful insights that inform your decisions. Data is collected through a suite of tools utilizing the latest technologies. Prime among that is the Angus Reid Forum, an opinion community consisting of engaged residents across the country who answer surveys on topical issues that matter to all Canadians.
Toronto, ON: Today, WomanACT and The Society for Canadian Women in Science & Technology (SCWIST) are pleased to announce partnerships with three employers who are dedicated to creating workplaces free from sexual harassment: Chandos Construction, EllisDon, and TandemLaunch. The Department of Justice has funded WomanACT and SCWIST to provide custom support to STEM and trade employers to improve company-wide prevention and response measures that address gender-based and sexual harassment.
On the importance of these partnerships, WomanACT Executive Director Harmy Mendoza says, “Our 2021 survey found that 4 in 10 Canadians experienced some form of harassment in the workplace—a rate significantly higher for women (50%) than men (33%). That is why these cross-sectoral partnerships are critical to ending sexual and gender-based harassment. We are heartened by these three companies’ investments to create a culture of safety, and we are committed to supporting them to improve workplace policies, procedures, and practices.”
SCWIST President Dr. Khristine Carino reinforces this project by explaining, “As the voice for women in STEM for 40 years, we understand first-hand the impacts of discrimination, gender-based and sexual harassment in the workplace. Addressing these behaviours can decrease stress, improve productivity and motivation, and improve retention rates for women.”
As to why this work is important to them, Chandos Construction and EllisDon shared:
“Harassment of any kind shouldn’t exist in any workplace. Period.” says Tim Coldwell, President, Chandos Construction. “We will do whatever is needed to ensure that every employee is part of a pleasant and comfortable working environment. We support WomanACT and SCWIST. Their values align with our own, and we look forward to collaborating with them, and being forces for good, together.”
“Empowering our employees to prevent and respond to gender-based violence is not only an important step for EllisDon’s safety practices and culture but is crucial to advance our industry as a whole,” says Geoff Smith, President and CEO of EllisDon. “It’s no question that we are a male-dominated industry — we need to be doing everything possible to attract and retain women in our workforce, while providing safe and respectful workplaces to build meaningful careers.”
About WomanACT: WomanACT has been providing planning and coordination in Toronto since 1991. Today, we are a charitable organization working collaboratively to end violence against women and advance gender equity through education, policy and community mobilization. For more information, please visit www.womanact.ca.
About SCWIST: SCWIST is a leader in programs, partnerships, mentoring and networks across Canada for women and girls in STEM. Through innovative research, capacity building and collective advocacy, SCWIST has advanced women and girls’ participation and leadership in STEM since 1981. For more information, please visit www.scwist.ca.
About Chandos: Chandos Construction is the first and largest B Corp Certified national technical builder in North America. We are 100 per cent employee owned, and a pioneer in integrated project delivery (IPD) and collaborative construction. Please visit www.chandos.com.
About EllisDon: EllisDon is an employee-owned, $5 billion-a-year global construction services company. With over 3,000 salaried and hourly employees across fifteen national and international offices, EllisDon has become a leader in every sector and nearly every facet of the construction industry. Please visit www.ellisdon.com.
About TandemLaunch: TandemLaunch creates, incubates and accelerates early-stage technology start-ups based on inventions from the world’s top universities in the areas of artificial intelligence, computer vision, IoT, audio and advanced sensors. Having successfully executed over 50 technology transfer agreements, TandemLaunch is a spinout foundry with an international scope, producing high-impact, IP-focused companies with an unprecedented rate of success. Please visit www.tandemlaunch.com.
Today is Equal Pay Day.
Equal Pay Day raises awareness of the gender pay gap and acknowledges how far into the year the average woman must work to earn what the average man earned in the previous year. In Canada, Equal Pay Day is on April 12th symbolizing that on average, a woman must work 15 and a half months to earn what a man earns in 12 months.
What is the gender pay gap?
The gender pay gap describes the average difference between the wages for women and men who are working. Women earning less than men is a pattern that is seen globally. The global gender pay gap is estimated at around 20%, meaning women earn 77 cents to every dollar men earn for equal value of work.[i] At this rate, it will take between 135 – 202 years to close the gender wage gap globally.[ii]
Canada ranks 24th out of 156 countries in the gender pay gap.[iii] In Canada, women earn on average .89 cents to every dollar a man earns. Ontario reflects this national average as well. When compared with other provinces, Ontario ranks 6th for its gender wage gap.[iv]
Does the gender pay gap impact all women equally?
It is important to note that the gender pay gap impacts women differently based on race, age, gender identity, and disability. For example, racialized women in Canada earned .59 cents to every dollar a man makes compared to non-racialized women who made .67 cents in 2015.[v] The average annual income for LGBTQ women in Canada is significantly lower than heterosexual men[vi] and women living with disabilities make an average annual income of $3,630 less than women living without disabilities.[vii]
What causes the gender pay gap?
The gender pay gap is caused by a number of factors. Women are more likely to be in part-time employment and take time away from employment for childcare responsibilities industries. Women are also more likely to be pushed into certain industries and occupations through discriminatory practices. Women often excluded from occupations that are seen as more lucrative, such as STEM industries. Instead, women are over-represented in occupations that are traditionally seen as women’s occupations such as the care economy.[viii] Work in male dominated industries is seen as valued at a higher rate compared to work in female dominated industries. According to the ILO, in addition to these factors, the gender wage gap is further caused by the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions.[ix]
It is calculated that these factors account for one third of the gender pay gap.[x] The rest of the gender pay gap is generally attributed to discrimination.[xi] This reinforces the point that the gender pay gap is very much an active form of oppression.
Why does the pay gap matter?
The gender pay gap has significant impacts on women’s economic wellbeing, especially for those women most marginalized. The long-term consequences of pay inequity mean that by the time women retire, they can be in a precarious economic position with limited pensions, or living in poverty.
For Canada, closing the pay gap could earn .6% incremental GDP growth to Canada, and between +0.4–0.9% for each province annually.[xii] We are currently losing on a large part of our labour market and potential for growth.
The gender pay gap also has an impact on women’s safety. Poverty can increase women’s risk of victimization and also trap women in violent situations. The lack of access to income and housing is the key barrier to women leaving abusive relationships. Having access to financial resources can significantly improve women’s access to housing, health care and legal supports.
What is the social cost?
The gender pay gap is an intentional form of discrimination and oppression against women. It is a visible sign of the value we place on women’s work and time. Ultimately, the gender pay gap perpetuates gender inequality, which is the root cause for gender-based violence.
[i] United Nations Women. ‘Equal pay for work of equal value’. https://www.un.org/en/observances/equal-pay-day
[ii] World Economic Forum (2021). ‘Global Gender Gap Report 2021’. https://www.weforum.org/repo`rts/global-gender-gap-report-2021
[iii] OECD (2022). Gender wage gap https://data.oecd.org/earnwage/gender-wage-gap.htm
[iv] Statistics Canada (2022). Average and median gender wage ratio
[v] Block, S., Galabuzi, G., and Tranjan, R. (2019). ‘Canada’s Colour Coded Income Inequality’. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. https://policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/canadas-colour-coded-income-inequality
[vi] Lourenco, D. ‘Researchers confirm substantial income disparities among lesbian, gay and bisexual Canadians’. Published Aug. 13, 2021. https://www.ctvnews.ca/business/researchers-confirm-substantial-income-disparities-among-lesbian-gay-and-bisexual-canadians-1.5546857
[vii] Burlock, A. (2017). ‘Women with Disabilities’. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/89-503-x/2015001/article/14695-eng.htm
[viii] Moyser, M. 2019. ‘Studies on Gender and Intersecting Identities: Measuring and Analyzing the Gender Pay Gap: A Conceptual and Methodological Overview’. Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/45-20-0002/452000022019001-eng.htm
[ix] ILO. (2019). ‘Understanding the gender pay gap’. https://www.ilo.org/actemp/publications/WCMS_735949/lang–en/index.htm
[x] Pay Equity Office Ontario. The Gender Wage Gap: It’s More Than You Think. https://www.payequity.gov.on.ca/en/LearnMore/GWG/Pages/default.aspx#fn1
[xi] ILO, 2019
[xii] McKinsey Global Institute. (2017). ‘The power of parity: advancing women’s equality in Canada.’ https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/gender-equality/the-power-of-parity-advancing-womens-equality-in-canada
In recent decades, the number of women and gender diverse people in STEM-related fields has been increasing. These folks are making important discoveries and spearheading progress in their industries and academia. For example, Dr. A.W. Peet is a tenured physics professor at the University of Toronto who focuses their research on the subatomic structure of space-time. Peet also co-chairs the physics department’s Inclusivity Committee and plans to continue their advocacy work until LGBTQ+ people feel as welcome as heterosexual and cisgender people on U of T’s campus.[i] Expanding the gender diversity of STEM fields also expands the diversity of perspectives able to offer answers and breadth to new problems.
Entering a traditionally male-dominated field presents a unique set of challenges for those who have been historically excluded from STEM industries. One of these challenges is workplace sexual harassment and violence. Workplace sexual harassment is defined by the Occupational Health and Safety Act as “(a) a course of vexatious and unwelcome comment or conduct against a worker because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, and (b) an unwelcome sexual solicitation or advance by a person in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker.”[ii] Gender-diverse people and women are subject to higher rates of sexual harassment and violence in the workplace. Data shows that in natural and applied sciences, 32% of women compared to 12% of men experience sexual harassment at work.[iii] And while companies have legal responsibilities to prevent and respond to instances of harassment and violence in the workplace, typical measures are consistently ineffective and continue to enable cultures of harm.
Workplace sexual harassment and violence can have serious impacts on a person’s mental and physical wellbeing, as well as their professional development. Experiences of sexual harassment and violence in the workplace are associated with negative outcomes, such as decreased job satisfaction, withdrawal from work, worsened physical and mental health, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, misogyny and harassment in the workplace are linked to decreased organizational commitment and diminished career progression.[iv]
A lack of data on workplace sexual harassment and violence against gender diverse, LBT women, and Two Spirit people demonstrates the need for stronger governmental support for advocacy for safe and decent employment. Almost half of LGB workers have experienced harassment in the workplace based on their sexual orientation and about 90% of transgender and gender-variant employees report experiences of workplace harassment and violence based on their gender identity and expression.[v] Dr. A.W. Peet has first-hand experience with workplace harassment, sharing in a 2019 interview with The Varsity, “the amount of transphobic harassment I’ve had… as a consequence of being an out trans person in the last few years is more than all of the misogyny that I’ve ever experienced as a presumed woman in physics for over 20 years.”[vi]
International data indicates that LGBTQ employees are less likely to report workplace harassment and violence because of a lack of appropriate policies.[vii] Additionally, a recent survey conducted by WomanACT found that fear for one’s safety was a major reason for underreporting.[viii] It is up to policymakers and advocates to push for evidence-based and trauma-informed action to be taken in STEM industries, including prevention and response measures such as climate assessments, training, communication, reporting systems, policies and procedures that are trauma-informed. Trauma-informed practices promote environments of accountability, collaboration, transparency, healing, and recovery.[ix] Advocating for more effective policies is a step in the right direction. Evidence-based workplace solutions have the power to alleviate and eliminate barriers to reporting and help make STEM workplaces a safe and harassment-free environment for women and gender-diverse folks.
The Supporting Safe STEM Workplaces project is working with STEM industry partners across Canada to create safer workplaces through policy development, capacity building and improving access to legal supports and resources for victims of sexual harassment.
[i] Aziz, M., & Raveendran, R. (2019, October 7). In the spotlight: Dr. A.W. Peet. The Varsity. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://thevarsity.ca/2019/10/06/in-the-spotlight-dr-a-w-peet/
[ii] Government of Ontario. (2020, June 12). Workplace violence and workplace harassment. ontario.ca. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.ontario.ca/document/guide-occupational-health-and-safety-act/part-iii0i-workplace-violence-and-workplace-harassment
[iii] Statistics Canada. (2021). In 2020, 1 in 4 Women and 1 in 6 Men reported having experienced inappropriate sexualized behaviours at work in the previous year. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/daily-quotidien/210812/dq210812b-eng.pdf?st=SHXeWOgC
[iv] Willness, C. R., Steel, P., & Lee, K. (2007). A meta-analysis of the antecedents and consequences of workplace sexual harassment. Personnel Psychology, 60(1), 127–162. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-6570.2007.00067.
[v] Bucik, A. (2016). Canada: Discrimination and Violence against Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Women and Gender Diverse and Two Spirit People on the Basis of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression. Egale Canada Human Rights Trust in partnership with the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association – North America Region (ILGA-NA).
[vi] Aziz & Raveendran, (2019, October 7).
[vii] Bucik (2016).
[viii] WomanACT (2021). Uncomfortable workplaces: WomanACT survey shows fear of backlash, stigma, and inaction. GlobeNewswire. https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2021/11/22/2338841/0/en/Uncomfortable-workplaces-WomanACT-survey-shows-fear-of-backlash-stigma-and-inaction.html
[ix] Ending Violence Association of BC. (2019). Gender-Based Violence, Harassment, and Bullying: Workplace Policy Guidelines for Response and Prevention.
The recent death of 22-year-old Gabby Petito in 2021 who was killed by her boyfriend, and the death of 23-year-old Lauren Smith-Fields who was found dead in her apartment following a date with a man she met on a dating app is highlighting the issue of dating violence and young women.
Dating violence is defined as any physical, sexual, and psychological violence in romantic and sexual relationships. Dating violence can look like many things including; hitting, being possessive, hurling insults, intimidating, isolating partners from family and friends, stalking, checking text messages without permission, using social media to hurt, embarrass or monitor them, and pressuring them for sexual contact without consent.
Young people in Canada are at the greatest risk of dating violence, with studies showing that young people between the ages of 15 and 24 make up 43% of all incidents of dating violence.[i] Dating violence starts early and is more prevalent among young women. Dating violence can begin as early as grade school, with 29% of young girls and women in grades 7, 9, and 11, reporting experiencing dating violence, compared to 13% of young boys and men.[ii]
Furthermore, a national study looking at 3,000 Canadian youth found that in the past year 12% were physically hurt on purpose by someone they were dating, 18% had a person they were dating use social media to hurt, embarrass, or monitor them, and 28% reported a dating partner tried to control them or emotionally hurt them.[iii] Among high school students, young women ages 15 -19 experience 10 times more violence in relationships than young men.
The experience of dating violence has lifelong consequences. Dating violence during youth is a strong risk factor for domestic violence in adulthood.[iv] The experience of dating violence among young women is also linked to negative outcomes in other areas such as poor educational outcomes, substance use, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, disruptive behaviours, and suicidal thoughts.[v] Dating violence has also been linked to poorer physical health and chronic health conditions such as increased blood pressure and chronic pain.
Youth are less likely to report dating violence, with only 8% informing adults or authorities after an incident. Teens do not commonly report dating violence because they are afraid or embarrassed to tell their friends and family. In some cases, teens do not think an incident is serious enough to report. In addition, sometimes youth do not report dating violence because they do not label certain behaviours as unhealthy but interpret them as acts of love.[vi]
It is important to teach young people and those around them – teachers, parents and peers – to acknowledge, understand and intervene at the first signs of violence.
Warning signs of dating violence include:
Looking out for warning signs is a good start, but much more is needed. A culture shift is required in making sure that youth dating violence is not minimized or accepted as a common learning experience, but understood as a serious form of violence that is habit-forming, and has lifelong implications and trauma attached to it. Adolescence and young adulthood is an important developmental period and it is important that healthy habits and messaging around dating and relationships are formed to stop the cycle of violence from teen to adulthood.
Interventions can include teaching safe and healthy relationship skills in schools. Bystander education can help teachers and peers learn how to identify and take action to stop and prevent dating violence. There is also a need for improved screening for dating violence in healthcare settings, and educational programs and information for families.
Youth dating violence is a public health issue, and it is important to have publicly funded support dedicated to effective prevention and response strategies. In Canada, there are limited services that are specialized for young people experiencing violence, in addition to a lack of policies that offer protection and clear actions on where to go and how to receive help.
[i] Statistics Canada. (2008) Police reported dating violence in Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2010002/article/11242-eng.htm
[ii] Price et al. (2001) Dating violence among New Brunswick Adolescents: A summary of two studies. Fredericton, Canada: Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research, University of New Brunswick.
[iii] Exner-Cortens D, Baker E, Craig W. (2021) The National Prevalence of Adolescent Dating Violence in Canada. J Adolesc Health, 69(3): 495-502.
[iv] Persram et al., (2021 Dec 14) Development and validation of the teen dating aggression measure among Canadian youth. Front Pyschol.
[v] Taquette, S. R., & Monteiro, D. (2019). Causes and consequences of adolescent dating violence: a systematic review. Journal of injury & violence research, 11(2), 137–147.
[vi] Hébert, M., Van Camp, T., Lavoie, F., Blais, M., & Guerrier, M. (2014). Understanding the hesitancy to disclose teen dating violence: Correlates of self-efficacy to deal with teen dating violence. Temida : casopis o viktimizaciji, ljudskim pravima i rodu, 17(4), 43–64.