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Eighty percent of Halifax’s top-earned dollars go to men 

The sunshine list shines a light on lacking gender parity in city jobs

Men on Halifax's sunshine list earn, on average $30,000 more than the women on the list.
  • Men on Halifax's sunshine list earn, on average $30,000 more than the women on the list.

T he glass ceiling of income inequality is alive and well, even for Halifax's top-earning municipal employees. Analysis of the city's sunshine list—published compensation data which includes the names, departments, positions and compensation for municipal employees earning over $100,000 a year—shows big gaps between the big bucks men and women are earning.

The data shows that HRM paid out just over $100 million in compensation to its 847 employees or contractors who earned over $100,000 in compensation last year. From HRM department directors and managers, to top jobs at Halifax Water, police constables and firefighters, the municipal employees earning the city's top dollar are mostly—you guessed it—men. Indeed, 82 percent of earners on list are men. 

In 2018-19, male employees earned a total of $82,421,039 in compensation. Female employees earned less than a quarter of that—$17,011,007. (The Coast analysed names and online profiles to categorize for gender. People of an indeterminate gender were excluded from the data.) And, before you say "well there's more male employees than female employees," the average compensation for sunshine-list-women was still $30,000 less than the average compensation for men.

Councillor Lisa Blackburn, one of only two women on Halifax's 17-member council, says the disparity is in line with most cities across the country. "It's no secret," she says. "We have a problem between male and female wages...women consistently and still are not paid as much as men."

For HRM's sunshine list, Blackburn says it's important to note that a large proportion of the top earners are from Halifax Regional Police and Halifax's fire departments. "And love it or hate it," says Blackburn, fire and police are "still roles that are traditionally filled by men, and it's a real struggle to get women to see themselves in those positions."

Eliminating Halifax Regional Police and Halifax Fire staff from the data, HRM still pays more than twice as much to its top-earning men—$13,828,198—than women—$6,877,365.

Regional council has staff working on two reports looking at gender parity within HRM, but both were just introduced this year, and are both information reports at this stage. One was requested by councillor Lorelei Nicoll to study creating a women's advocacy committee; the other asks that the CAO review hiring practices and policies, and make recommendations to the executive standing committee on "what means could be initiated to achieve a better balance in relation to gender parity."

The city says staff are also working on a framework for an employment equity program, which would consider women as an equity group when applying for jobs.

Blackburn notes that some top jobs recently have been going to women, citing Cathie O'Toole's recent appointment as general manager at Halifax Water—her predecessor, Carl Yates, made $246,320 in 2018-19—and Halifax Public Libraries chief librarian and CEO Åsa Kachan among other leadership roles.

"We do have a lot of women who are sort of breaking through that glass ceiling. But the unfortunate thing is...I don't think they seem to be taking the big paycheques with them as they go through that glass ceiling."

Women make up 30 percent of the municipality's whole workforce, but only 20 percent of the sunshine list's earners. And in Canada, female representation keeps shrinking the higher you get on the pay scale. A 2019 Statistics Canada report says at the wage bracket for the top 0.1 percent, there are tens of thousands of men, but only thousands of women.

While the city works internally on ways to increase gender parity, Blackburn says "I think part of it is that we have to do more to encourage women to see themselves in those roles."

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