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B.C. tech firms pledge to close gender pay gap as companies ‘find their feet again’

gender pay gap
Gender pay gap. (via File photo)

With some experts describing 2020’s economic downturn as a “she-cession” — a recession disproportionately affecting women — a Vancouver tech company is leading efforts to help businesses reach gender pay parity.

Women in Canada earned an average pre-tax salary of $51,352 in 2019 compared with $67,704 for men, amounting to a 24 per cent gap, according to a March study from Leger Research commissioned by ADP Canada.

In a bid to close those persistent gaps, the Pay Up for Progress initiative launched Monday (September 28), urging companies across the country to take action within their organizations.

The campaign, spearheaded by Unbounce Marketing Solutions Inc., is calling on business leaders to undertake a compensation analysis to determine if pay gaps exist, develop a plan based on those findings and commit resources to continually address the gap over time.

“For small-to-medium-sized companies looking to take on that work it's really tough to know what to do. It seems like a big problem,” Leslie Collin, Unbounce’s vice-president of people and culture, told Glacier Media.

Unbounce is providing pledgees with a “compensation toolkit” to support them through a series of virtual workshops that Collin said will help determine “what is a manageable first step to take and prioritize progress in that area vs. perfection.”

The pledge, she said, doesn’t require organizations to reach parity within a set period of time — a potentially daunting task for some businesses in the midst of the economic downturn. 

Instead, it aims to help businesses prioritize addressing pay gaps they may not have been aware of and commit to addressing those issues.

Collin said Unbounce discovered its own wage gap a number of years ago and worked to close it immediately, putting structures and processes in place to address it.

“We want to inspire other companies to prioritize pay parity and work towards closing that gap,” she said.

Ahead of the official launch, the Pay Up for Progress initiative had received pledges from B.C. tech companies Traction on Demand (Traction Sales and Marketing Inc.), Allocadia Software Inc., Beanworks Solutions Inc., Thinkific Labs Inc. and Ontario-based Kiite Inc.

But the COVID-19 crisis continues to put additional pressures on women in the workforce.

A July report from RBC concluded decades-long gains in Canadian women’s employment were wiped in the weeks and months that followed the pandemic. 

The authors pointed to the outsized role women play in industries hit hardest by the recession.

“The majority of job losses have taken place in female-dominated industries, including accommodation and food services, retail trade, educational services and health care and social assistance – though this story is evolving as the recession wears on,” the report stated.

In accommodation and food services, for example, 8.8 per cent of the male share of the industry had to bear layoffs in March and April compared with 11.4 per cent of women during the same period.

“Women working in these sectors know that the probability of finding a new position is quite low. Discouraged, they may opt to stay home and ride out the crisis. By contrast, men working in goods-producing sectors (where over three quarters of those employed are male) are more likely to get called back to work once it is safe,” the report stated.

Collin acknowledged that for some SMBs navigating the pandemic, the pledge might seem to be an additional strain to consider.

But it’s for that reason the pledge doesn’t require businesses to meet set goals within certain time parameters, and is instead focused on long-term commitments to addressing the gender pay gap.

“There's an opportunity for us to actually not go back to the way that it was [pre-pandemic] but decide what the future looks like. And part of that is making sure that as we grow, as companies find their feet again and look to accelerate again, that pay parity is a priority in that journey,” Collin said.