Release: #IWD2018 Women and Work in BC Blog Series

March 6, 2018

In honour of International Women’s Day, the Business Council of B.C. (BCBC) is releasing a series of blogs examining the place of British Columbian women in the workplace. The series offers a preview of a BCBC report on women and work in BC over the last four decades, to be released later this spring.

"Women’s labour force participation is not simply a women’s issue. It is a complex topic with broad economic impacts," said Greg D'Avignon, President and CEO of the Business Council of British Columbia. "Data shows that increasing women’s labour force participation has a direct correlation to three desired policy outcomes: boosting economic growth, closing skills gaps, and reducing poverty."

The blog series outlines how women in BC today are better educated than at any other time in history, and yet the labour force participation rate gap has stayed essentially constant for nearly three decades. "This is a surprising outcome given that higher education levels are normally associated with increased workforce participation and steady attachment to the labour market," observed Denise Mullen, the Business Council's Director of Environment and Sustainability and author of the report.

Why are women less likely than men to be in the labour force? "The answer might appear by looking at women’s reasons for not participating in work, or choosing part-time work over full-time work. These reasons matter. And in this regard, policy may help to explain the participation gap," noted Ms. Mullen. A robust economy depends on being able to develop, nurture and engage skilled talent. With employers struggling to find workers at all skill levels, and a rising cohort of highly educated women not being engaged in work, the result is a substantial unrealized benefit to our economy. "To address this lost opportunity, we must identify and understand the barriers affecting women’s participation in the workplace. Then, action needs to be taken by government and business leaders to address the challenges women face in work, which will ultimately drive a stronger, and more resilient economy," stated Ms. Mullen.

Key stats explored in the series:

  • While the gap in BC labour force participation rates between men and women narrowed in the second half of the last century (1961-1994), it has remained stable for nearly three decades at about 9 percentage points.
  • More women than men graduate with some form of post-secondary educational credential – a certificate, a diploma, or a degree.
  • Since 1990, women aged 20 to 49 years have had steady labour force participation rates between 78% and 80%. Despite a rising cohort of highly educated women, these rates have not increased.
  • Women’s employment earnings are, on average, still lower than men’s—even when they have the same education level.
  • Women are dominant in part-time employment – 67% compared to 33% for men.
  • The BC economy is set to have 917,000 job openings over the next decade. Attracting more women into the workforce could help meet future labour demand.
  • Fifty one percent of small businesses in BC are self-employed individuals. Of this, women account for 38% - the highest percentage in Canada.
  • Women over 50 have the fastest growing labour force participation rate. Between the ages of 50 – 64, women participate at a rate higher than the overall average for women (67% and 60%, respectively).
  • The 2018 federal budget is a step in the right direction: measures to combat the gender gap feature throughout.

Read our Women and Work in BC blog series here:

About the Business Council of British Columbia

Now in its 52nd year as the premier business organization in British Columbia, the Business Council of B.C. is a non-partisan organization made up of 250 leading companies, post-secondary institutions and industry associations from across B.C.'s diverse economy. The Council produces exceptional public policy research and advocacy in support of creating a competitive economy for the benefit of all British Columbians.


Greg Descantes
Pace Group

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