A new report suggests that while Abbotsford-Mission ranks high on a list of the best cities to be a woman in Canada, the area also has the biggest wage gap, with women who are working earning less than 60 per cent of what men do.
The study was released last Wednesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), an independent policy research organization. The report ranks 25 cities based on how men and women fare in economic security, leadership, health, personal security and education; however, it focuses on the disparity between men and women, rather than the overall well-being of either.
The Abbotsford-Mission census metropolitan area (CMA) ranks fourth overall out of 25 cities, following Victoria, Gatineau and Quebec City. Vancouver is ranked seventh on the list.
While Abbotsford ranked 22nd in economic security and 16th in health, it ranked second in leadership and security.
The report notes that when it comes to leadership, both Abbotsford and Mission women are well-represented on their city councils. In Abbotsford, there are four women on the nine-person council, and in Mission, three of seven seats are filled by women. Outside of politics, the report notes that women make up 36 per cent of senior managers.
Many larger cities don’t fare nearly as well. In St. John’s, there are no women on council. Of Regina’s 11 councillors, two are women. And in Calgary, that number is two out of 15.
In education, women in Abbotsford and Mission are more likely than men to finish high school, college or university, although the number of each holding university or college degrees is below the national average. About 18 per cent of women have a college degree compared to 12 per cent of men, but men are twice as likely to have completed training in the trades – 15 per cent to women’s eight.
Abbotsford also has the largest wage gap between the genders in Canada, with women earning just 57 per cent of what men do.
Women see the smallest wage gap in Gatineau, where they earn 87 cents to the man’s dollar.
Iglika Ivanova, a senior economist with the B.C. office of CCPA, said reasons for the wage gap can be hard to determine, but are sometimes dependent on the types of industry in the city, as different industries can attract higher levels of either gender and some industries tend to have greater wage gaps.
Fiona McQuarrie, an associate professor at the University of the Fraser Valley who teaches a course on gender and diversity issues for the school of business, says the gap may also stem from the types of jobs in Abbotsford.
McQuarrie said that, according to Statistics Canada data, just over 25 per cent of the workforce in Abbotsford-Mission is in sales and service, an industry that spans from high commission sales to people working in shops, she said. There are wage differences for men and women in that sector, with men generally occupying the higher-earning positions. Another 17 per cent of the local workforce is in trades, transport, equipment operators and related occupations, which are more male-dominated fields, she said.
She added that there is still the matter of personal choice of profession, and people may want to enter into fields that are either male- or female-dominated and have different pay scales.