First, the good news: Statistics Canada says that women make up a larger proportion of Canada’s top 1% of earners than they did in 1982. The bad news: I’m not one of them.
For a Canadian woman to get her name moved from the regular “binder full of women” and into the “1% binder”, (sub-title: “My stockbroker returns my calls because, hotdiggity, I have a stockbroker!”), takes 200,000 clams a year. This includes employment income as well as funds from investments and pensions.
News that the number of women in the top rank has almost doubled to 21% in the past, oh, quarter of a century, is just ducky. Even if that means that more than three-quarters of the Richie Riches are men and fewer than a quarter are women, at least we’re getting a taste.
Unfortunately, if we look elsewhere the picture is not quite so savoury. A report by Catalyst, a women’s advocacy group, found that the percentage of women holding senior officer positions in Financial Post 500 corporations has slowed to the speed of molasses, with growth of less than one percent. According to the study, 30% of Canada’s largest companies employ no senior ranking women whatsoever. A cursory glance at the corporate appointment notices that appear daily in The Globe and Mail‘s Report on Business confirms as much.
The government report also found that, given the relatively low income threshold, the 1% rank is filled with regular folk like vets, doctors, dentists and senior managers, not the machers of industry. In the medical professions, for example, success is more dependent on not killing your patients and less on being the beneficiary of the Old Boys’ Club feeder tube. For senior corporate officers, $200K is the annual membership fee at their golf club (deductible of course), not an annual salary, for Pete’s sake.
So, yes, women are making progress in income equality even if is in Pluto-time.
A more worrisome sign is the growing gap between top-tier earners and the rest of us. The top 1% earn 10.6% of the nation’s income. According to StatsCan, the median income of the top 1% is ten times that of the other 99%. So while we’re not in the midst of a full-throated chorus of Les Misérables just yet, humming a few bars would not be amiss.
What accounts for the chasm between the haves and have-nots? One answer is the rise of the ‘permatemp‘. After WWII, temp agencies sprouted as a way for housewives to gain part-time employment without threatening salaried men. Temps were called Kelly Girls or White Glove Girls and the marketing image was that they worked for ‘pin money’. Today, temp agencies are publicly traded, global behemoths. Hiring temps instead of permanent staff means that corporations can over-serve senior personnel at the expense of the rank-and-file. These contingency workers’ wages will never catch up to close the income gap.
Hit it Fantine! “I dreamed a dream…”