NL Women Face Nation’s Biggest Wage Gap Despite Being Better Educated Than Men

More women than men graduate every year with degrees in fields like medicine, business, science, and education. Yet 66% of minimum wage workers in our province are women.

Every year, MUN’s Harris Centre & The Community Foundation of NL release a “Vital Signs Report.” It’s a great read that calls itself a checkup on the quality of life in Newfoundland and Labrador.

One eyesore from this year’s summary of the states of affairs in Newfoundland & Labrador was in the opening remarks of a piece on page 3, by the St. John’s Status of Women Council, “Our province has the unfortunate distinction of having the largest gender wage gap in the country.”

The short contribution was big on bleak stats. Precisely two-thirds of minimum wage earners in our province are women.

That doesn’t line up. Women are as educated as men in our province. According to Stats Canada, “Since the early 1990s, women have made up the majority of full-time students enrolled in undergraduate university programs.”

The same is true for locals enrolled at MUN. 2017 data from MUN shows the number of female to male graduates in various disciplines. Here are some examples of the number of undergrad degrees award to women, versus men, in 2017. :

  • Business: 208 women to 171 men
  • Medicine: 46 women to 34 men
  • Science: 225 women to 182 men
  • Social Work: 65 women to 5 men
  • Education: 216 women to 86 men

The only notable differences in male-dominated fields were engineering and political science. Last year at the Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook, only 38 men received undergraduate degrees. Versus 173 women.

And yet 66% of minimum wage workers are women.

Perhaps hiring bias explains the gender wage gap: too many employers see men as more qualified for zero reason. But some of the mystery is pretty obvious: it is women who give up their careers to rear children as a rule.

Women continue to find piecemeal work to supplement family income. This may explain why 69% of part-time workers in NL are women (Source: Vital Signs 2018).

Statistics Canada clearly tells us that mothers do two-thirds of all the hours of household work done by Canadian parents. So, no surprise they make only two-thirds of what they’re male partner makes.

But career-disruption as a result of child-rearing does not explain away the entire injustice of the wage gap. Women are clearly over-represented in lower-paying sectors, like education. In 2017, 82% of jobs in NL healthcare were filled by females.

High paying jobs in important resource-based sectors of our province, like Mining or Oil & Gas, are notably male dominated. This is despite the fact women dominate the number of degrees being awarded in fields like science & business.

In 2016, the average annual income for a male in our province was $56,724. For a woman? $34,259. That’s not good enough.

Something needs to be done about  the wage gap — for equality, sure, but to make men care more about this, something also needs to be done about the wage gap for the betterment of household financial security, and to stimulate our provincial economy.

More affordable child care options and government policies that see to their enactment would be a fine place to start. Many women stay home to raise their child because childcare costs are high enough they nullify the mother’s paycheque. What is done for familial or financial reasons at the time ends up being a disruption to that woman’s career trajectory. Seniority and momentum are vital assets for upward movement of careers.

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  • I understand the message but this article is flawed. For one, a wage gap based on sexism can only be measured when looking at the same job. If two people work for the same place, start at the same time, have the same education, and one makes more than the other, that’s a wage gap. You can’t take two people, one accepted a lower paying job, and claim it is sexism.

    We also have no idea how many men stay compared to women, how many of these highly educated women stick around?

    On a side note, does anyone not see the hypocrisy in some of these points? This article clearly shows that women dominate the sciences in university. These similar number have been going on for over a decade. Year after year more women are enrolled and graduate from sciences then men. Yet there are still media campaigns claiming there are not enough women in sciences. Right now, at memorial University there are multiple scholarships in sciences that are only eligible for women, and none for only men. 83% of NL nurses are female, yet no one pushes to get more men, there are no male scholarships to help men get in to the field. There are countless women in sciences groups, and no men in sciences groups. This isn’t like straight people thinking there should be straight pride events, or like white people who dont understand why there is black history month, or why aboriginal aid is needed. Those are all because of minority and majority, one is needed, the other is the norm. In this case women are the majority, yet there are multiple services for them only, while they are the majority. Those programs were needed, when some of these programs were created only 23% of science grads were women, but that was 20 year ago. yet no one acknowledges it, they still fight a fight that was won, they fight for supremacy, not equality.

  • A really interesting read and wholeheartedly agree with the steps you suggest to set things on the correct path shift things towards a more balanced scenario.

    I am curious if you found anything looking at the rate of graduates leaving the province post degree and if it had any effect. Even if there are 15% more female med graduates than male how many of them stay as opposed to leave? Historically medical students leave Newfoundland for better opportunities which lines up with what Memorials medical department found in their own investigation from 2004(summary at

  • There is a wage gap but gender has nothing to do with it it’s all to do with personal choice multiple articles have been written debunking the so called gender pay gap

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