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Racism influencing low women pay in Canada

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

In an article published in Talent Canada, Stacey Fitzsimmons, Jen Baggs and Mary Yoko Brannen found that regardless of education or training, racialized immigrant women earn less.



White men received $6,263 more in annual pay than women of colour. These results emphasize the importance of looking at multiple characteristics together when considering the employment experiences of immigrants.


First-generation immigrants racialized women who are neither anglophone nor francophone earn the least. The gap in annual income between these two groups of first-generation immigrants, even after controlling for other explanations like education and experience, is close to $10,000.

This shows why it doesn’t make sense to talk about first-generation immigrants in the workplace as though most of them share similar experiences.

It is possible to see the combined effect of race and gender for first-generation immigrants who all work in their mother tongues. White men received $6,263 more in annual pay than women of colour. These results emphasize the importance of looking at multiple characteristics together when considering the employment experiences of immigrants.


What to do about it?

Investing in diversity and inclusion more generally is one step that may help the immigrant employees who need it most. However, a more effective approach may be to directly target those groups most disadvantaged; for example, focusing on immigrant women of colour, rather than broad diversity initiatives.


Immigrants, women and people of colour have very different employment experiences, and these differences are even bigger when considering these characteristics in combination.

Businesses that recognize these differences will be better placed to reduce unfair pay gaps and capture the full value of a diverse workforce.


A recent report suggests the onus is on employers to actively recruit newcomers through immigrant services organizations like Vancouver’s MOSAIC, Toronto’s ACCESS Employment and Montreal’s le Collectif. Ultimately, the trio's findings suggest that no matter how much education, training or networking that racialized female immigrants do, they are still earning less than their peers. That means it’s up to employers to remove employment barriers and recognize the benefits of all their employees.

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