4 in 10 women feel underpaid – compared to 2 in 10 men: survey

'Employers need to be more prepared to address issues and make changes - particularly when it comes to appraisals and benchmarking salaries more fairly'

4 in 10 women feel underpaid – compared to 2 in 10 men: survey

Today is International Women’s Day, and the stats are still not great when it comes to women in the workplace.

Overall, 40% of female professionals in North America feel underpaid for what they do, compared with just 24% among male respondents, according to data from Robert Walters.

In addition, just 39% of women earn a salary of $75,000 or more. The comparable figure among men is 67%.

“Whilst the gender pay gap has narrowed over recent years, we still have a significant way to go. Our research indicates that men remain to be on higher wages, feel more satisfied with their salary, and are far more likely to receive a pay rise should they request it,” says Coral Bamgboye, head of ED&I at Robert Walters Canada.

“As the cost-of-living crisis continues to prevail across Canada – intensified further by record lows on new year bonuses and pay rises – employees are relying on their salaries and job security more than ever. However, with more women reporting that they live ‘paycheck to" paycheck' compared to their male counterparts, we have a serious issue on our hands which could cripple the female workforce in terms of motivation, productivity, and all-round wellbeing.”

Women are only earning 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to a previous World Bank report.

Insufficient pay increases for women

This disparity extends even to the salary increases that workers receive, according to Robert Walters’ survey of more than 6,000 respondents in North America, which included over 2,000 Canadian professionals.

Among professional women who did receive a pay increase this year, the majority got below the current rate of inflation – with 32% receiving a pay increase of 1-5%. 

Just 9% received an increase of 21% or more, compared to over twice as many men (19%) who earned the inflation busting increase.

Just a quarter (25%) of women received near 75-100% of the pay rise that they requested, with double the number of women than men stating that they received nothing following negotiation.

A quarter of women (24%) also admitted that they have not received a pay increase at all within the past 12 months.

Almost a fifth (16%) of women admit to being hesitant in negotiating salaries because they “do not believe their employer will provide the pay rise”. 

Also, double the number of women than men state that they feel a lack of confidence or embarrassment when it comes to negotiating for better pay.

These data echo the gender wage gap findings of a previous Robert Half report.

“The gender pay gap has been prevalent for as long as the modern economy has and because of this, women should be supported by their employers in a way that makes them feel comfortable and confident when it comes to salary negotiation,” says Coral.

“Whilst organizations work to bridge the gap, employers need to be more prepared to address issues and make changes - particularly when it comes to appraisals and benchmarking salaries more fairly, without waiting for employees to seek fair pay themselves.”

Gender benefits gap

And it’s not just in the matter of pay that women are getting the shorter stick, according to Robert Walters.

In fact, men are also twice as likely to receive additional monetary-based perks than women:




Bonus scheme



Equity/company stocks/shares



Mortgage allowance



Last month, Ottawa launched a new pay transparency website in an effort to highlight the barriers to equity experienced by women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minorities in federally regulated private sector industries.

The public sector is further along compared to the private sector when it comes to closing the gender wage gap, according to a previous report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

‘Structured approach’ to closing gender wage gap

In a Harvard Business Review article, three experts detailed how a “structured approach” can be better way to conduct pay equity analysis and lead to addressing the gender wage gap issue.

The approach – which was the topic of  an article published in Production and Operations Management – focuses on closing pay gaps in two ways: by addressing systematic biases, and by addressing the locus of pay inequity in a firm’s salary structure, say David Anderson, associate professor of Analytics at the Villanova School of Business; Margret Vilborg Bjarnadottir, associate professor of Management Science and Statistics at Robert H. Smith School of Business at University of Maryland; and David Gaddis Ross, R. Perry Frankland Professor at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business Administration.

Using the structured approach to understand the locus of pay inequity, organizations would do the following:

  1. Assess the pay gap by department. Understanding that the pay gap is larger in department B allows the organization to allocate more significant raises to department B, therefore eliminating departmental inequities.
  2. Determine where in the pay distribution the differences are. Understanding that women are more likely to be at or below expected pay, and are unlikely to be well above expected pay, allows the organization to allocate raises to rebalance these differences.
  3. Recognize the benefits and limitations of data. By using a data-driven approach, the organization can identify the locus of pay inequity and take action to rectify and close pay gaps. However, managers must be kept in the loop. There may be cases where some employees should not be given raises (due to factors outside the data) or where some employees should get larger raises than those suggested by the quantitative analysis.

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