The gender pay gap in Canada could close by 2035, according to new research published by consulting firm Accenture to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Of course, that’s if employers and policy-makers provide support, and if women are encouraged to make informed career choices, manage their careers proactively, use digital technology to learn and work, and improve their technological skills.

“The gender pay gap is an economic and competitive imperative, and closing it requires collaboration from business, government and academia,” the report notes. “At the same time, women must embrace lifelong learning, taking full advantage of digital and tech opportunities at their universities and work.”

Read: Mental health in women linked to gender pay gap

The study determined that in 2015, Canadian men earned 52 per cent more than Canadian women, but this doesn’t take into account participation in the workforce, hours worked, industries or roles.

“The future workforce must be an equal workforce,” said Bill Morris, Canada president and senior managing director at Accenture. “. . . and we must all take action to create significant opportunities for women and close the gap more quickly.”

Read: Employers integral to closing gender wage gap

The report also found the roots of the pay gap can begin as early as university. Canadian female undergraduate students are less likely than their male classmates to choose a major they think will lead to high pay (27 per cent versus 51 per cent). Similarly, they’re less likely to have a mentor (33 per cent versus 61 per cent) and hope to work in senior leadership positions (30 per cent versus 47 per cent).

The researchers calculated that if the current employment trends continue, the average Canadian woman will earn $32,350 in 2030. If, on the other hand, major strides are made in terms of technological immersion, digital fluency and career strategy, that average would jump to $43,201.

Read: It’s time to offer female-only retirement education

A Royal Bank of Canada report, also published on International Women’s Day, found Canada had the highest female workforce participation rate of all G7 countries over the past decade, well above the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average of 51.6 per cent in 2015.

But despite gains by women in the workforce, there still exists a gender pay gap in Canada. “A further narrowing of the wage gap could yield knock-on benefits for the economy,” notes the report. “If females aged 25 to 54 and working full-time had earned the same hourly wage as their male counterparts, this cohort’s aggregate earnings would have been a whopping 17 per cent higher in 2015.”

Despite accounting for close to half of the labour force, the share of women heading incorporated businesses is well below that of males (2.6 per cent versus 6.5 per cent), according to the report. That said, relative to other G7 countries, Canada performs well in this regard, coming next to Italy.

Read: Benefits of gender diverse leadership include better returns on equity

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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