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Can you wait 27 years for the gender pay gap to close?

Can you wait 27 years for the gender pay gap to close? 

And that’s an optimistic picture painted by Accenture’s report titled Getting to Equal 2017. Because it takes into account that “career equalizers” – factors such as digital fluency, career strategy, and tech immersion – will cut the time to reach parity by as much as 36 years. That means without these equalizers, parity would likely be reached by 2080 instead. The read the full report, click here.

To come up with the numbers, the professional services firm surveyed more than 28,000 women and men, including undergraduates, in 29 countries. The sample included equal representation of men and women, representing three generations (Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers) across all workforce levels at companies of varying size. The margin of error for the total sample was an approximate +/- 0.6 per cent.

The research found that the pay gap in developing markets, these equalizers could cut more than 100 years off the time to reach pay parity, achieving it by 2066 instead of 2168.

In Canada, the pay gap could close as early as 2035, shortening the time to pay parity by 24 years.

Accenture’s research found that, globally, a woman earns an average US$100 for every $140 a man earns. Women are also much less likely than men to have paid work (50 per cent and 76 per cent, respectively).

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This contributes to a “hidden pay gap” that increases the economic inequities between men and women: for every $100 a woman earns, a man earns $258, the research shows.  

“The future workforce must be an equal workforce,” said Julie Sweet, chief executive officer for North America of Accenture. “The gender pay gap is an economic and competitive imperative that matters to everyone, and we must all take action to create significant opportunities for women and close the gap more quickly.”

The research also identifies several critical factors that affect a woman’s ability to achieve equal pay as early as university.

For example, female undergraduates in Canada are currently less likely than their male counterparts to choose an area of study that they believe offers high earning potential (27 per cent vs. 51 per cent).

Women are also least likely than men to have a mentor (33 per cent vs. 61 per cent) or aspire to senior leadership positions (30 per cent vs. 47 per cent).

Additionally, young women lag in adopting new technologies quickly (46 per cent vs. 62 per cent) and in taking coding and computing courses (60 per cent vs. 80 per cent).

At least women graduating from universities three years from now could be the first in their generation to close the gender pay gap in their lifetimes if the take advantage of three career equalizers and if business, government, and academia provide critical support, the report said.

What are these equalizers again?

Digital fluency – the extent to which people use digital technologies to connect, learn and work

Career strategy – the need for women to aim high, make informed choices, and manage their careers proactively

Tech immersion – the opportunity to acquire greater technology and stronger digital skills to advance as quickly as men 

Accenture believes that through digital fluency, more than 100 million women would be employed worldwide. This will reduce the global pay gap by 21 per cent by 2030 and add $1.9 trillion to women’s income worldwide.

By employing the right career strategies, the worldwide pay gap can be cut by an additional nine per cent by 2030 and an additional $1.5 trillion in women’s income will be realized.

Technology access and stronger digital skills can help women secure jobs in higher paid sectors and obtain more opportunities for advancement. The worldwide pay gap can be reduced by another five per cent by 2030, and an additional $500 billion can be added to women’s income by that time.

Combining these three equalizers would reduce the pay gap by 35 per cent worldwide and add $3.9 trillion to women’s income by 2030, the report said.

“Business, government, and academia all have an important role to play in closing the gap,” according to Pierre Nanterme, Accenture’s chairman, and CEO. “Collaboration among these organizations is key to providing the right opportunities, environments and role models to lead the way for change.”

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