Workforce gender inequality costs B.C.’s GDP billions: study

Only 28% of STEM graduates are women, according to a new study | Shutterstock

Adding more women to the workforce could boost British Columbia’s GDP by $20 billion and Canada’s as a whole by $150 billion by 2026, according to a new study by MicKinsey.

The study looked at 69 Canadian companies representing over 500,000 employees in total. It found that B.C., Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Quebec have the biggest potential for GDP growth.

According to the study, the impact to B.C.’s GDP would come from advancing women’s equality in three economic areas:

- adding more women to high-productivity sectors like mining and technology (38%);

- raising women’s labour force participation (39%); and

- increasing women’s working hours (23%).

The study found that Canadian women represent 35% of managerial positions, 28% of STEM graduates, 23% of STEM jobs, 20% of small business owners and 29% of elected officials. The gender gap in these areas was largely identical across all provinces.

Compared with men, women are overrepresented in unpaid care work at home (64%) and as single parents (80%).

The study said addressing these areas of gender inequality would be key to gaining significant economic benefits. It suggests tackling these areas by removing barriers against women in the STEM fields, enabling more women to be entrepreneurs, reducing gender inequality in child care and unpaid care work, amplifying women’s voice in politics and reducing gender bias and reshaping social norms.

The catch is that the country would need to add 600,000 net jobs for women by 2026 to make the $150 billion GDP increase possible, which is 6% higher than current 2026 forecasts, according to the survey. These positions would also need to be concentrated in high-productivity sectors like oil, mining and technology, which all currently employ more men than women.

While the study’s forecasts accounts for a more realistic scenario of progress made towards gender parity in the workforce, there would still be inequality. It notes that if Canada were to go further and achieve complete gender parity in the workforce, approximately $420 billion could be added to the country’s GDP or $55 billion for B.C. by 2026.