Thank you very much.
Good afternoon, Madam Chair. I welcome the opportunity to appear here before the Special Committee on Pay Equity.
I'd like to begin by recognizing that we are meeting on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin nation.
I also want to take a moment to thank this committee for all of their hard work on the issue of pay equity. Since you will hear very shortly from my colleagues about pay equity at the federal level and within federally regulated workplaces, I will focus my comments on the issue of the gender wage gap, which is closely associated with pay equity.
While definitions may vary, the gender wage gap is generally recognized as the difference between the total of what women earn in our country compared with what men earn. As the committee knows, pay equity is defined as equal pay for work of equal value, where jobs are evaluated on their skill, their effort, their responsibility, and working conditions, and can be compared for their value in the workplace.
The two are linked because addressing pay equity allow us to acknowledge the undervaluing of work traditionally performed by women and consider ways to address it.
Pay equity, however, is only one part of the solution to the gender wage gap. It is a complicated issue with multiple causes, and it requires a multi-faceted response. No single action by an individual, organization or government will close this gap. It is going to take all Canadians working together.
The need for action on the gender wage gap is quite clear. According to Statistics Canada income data, a woman working full time makes 73.5¢ for every dollar that a man makes. Canada now ranks 80th out of 145 countries in the 2015 World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index report for income equality between women and men.
Just as there are marked differences in the distribution of work between men and women, there are also clear differences between groups of women. Immigrant women's employment lags 7% behind that of Canadian-born women and 14% behind that of immigrant men. Aboriginal women's employment rates are 5% below those of aboriginal men and 11% below those of non-aboriginal women. This is unacceptable and we have to make progress.
Alarmingly, studies suggest that more than half of the gender wage gap is due to unexplained factors that either we have not yet learned how to measure or, quite frankly, are the result of patriarchy, the systemic bias and discriminatory practices that have resulted in women being paid less than their male counterparts.
Statistics show that, while more women are now making inroads into all industries and occupations, they are still concentrated in lower-paying sectors such as retail, health care, and social services. Women are also overrepresented in part-time work and are less likely to reach more senior positions. Of course, many women have a greater share of unpaid work, including roles as parents or caregivers. The so-called motherhood penalty reduces the earnings of women with children by at least 9% compared to women without children.
Conversely, Canada ranks first out of 145 countries in female educational attainment, according to the World Economic Forum. This makes it clear that we have a significant pool of talented women in Canada with the skills and capabilities needed for a range of economic opportunities.
Women now make up the majority of enrolments in college programs, and the proportion of women is even greater among graduates. Since the early 1990s, women have made up the majority of full-time students enrolled in undergraduate university programs. As a result, women already represent nearly half the workforce.
The sectors of our economy where women are under-represented are slowly becoming fewer. In the public and not-for-profit sectors, women hold many leadership positions, and women are slowly gaining ground as entrepreneurs, senior executives, CEOs, and board members across the country, but challenges remain. Women represent just 19.5% of FP 500 board members, and 40% of FP 500 companies have no women whatsoever on their boards.
How do we make progress in closing this gap? One critical ingredient is leadership. As the Minister of Status of Women, I'm very proud to be part of a government that has made gender equality a priority, an action that will have ripple effects throughout our society and economy. We plan on making meaningful progress on reducing the gender wage gap across the country. We are leading by example. The Prime Minister made history last November by appointing the first-ever federal cabinet with an equal number of women and men, and the federal government is now working to ensure that its senior appointments are merit-based and reflect Canada's diversity, with gender parity as a key goal.
Through Status of Women Canada, we're supporting projects in sectors of the economy where women have traditionally been under-represented, such as the science and technology sectors. We will continue to engage the public, the private, and the not-for-profit sectors to promote increased representation of women in leadership and decision-making positions. We know that, when there are more women in leadership positions and roles, there are better outcomes for women.
In March of this year, I announced a new call for proposals for projects to engage indigenous women and strengthen the role they play in their communities, as well as projects that empower women for political or community action. We expect those projects to be launched later this year. The review of our electoral system is also an opportunity to look for increased engagement of and for women.
Thank you very much.