(March 15, 2022) Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Canada’s attitude towards its health care workers has been under scrutiny. Most agree that Canada’s health care system, which is often favourably compared to the American health care system) was underfunded well before the COVID-19 pandemic.
In February 2021, we wrote about Robyn Doolittle and Chen Wang’s Globe and Mail series, The Power Gap. The series collected data on gender and race-oriented salary disparities in Canadian municipalities, universities, publicly owned corporations, and provincial governments. Now, Doolittle and Wang have released new research, assessing salary and power gaps in Canada’s health care system.
In the first Power Gap report, Doolittle and Wang found that women represented between 24% and 39% of higher-earning employees in the four sectors mentioned above. Summarizing their research, Doolittle and Wang wrote that “Men still dramatically outnumber, outrank and out-earn women.” In high-level hospital administrative and research positions, the numbers resembled those in other sectors- women only occupied about 35% of these positions. But for physicians, nurses, and surgeons, the gender parity is much more balanced. 92% of Canadian nurses are women, who will likely not surprise any readers.
But 44% of Canadian physicians are women and given that over half of Canada’s current medical students are women, it’s likely that in the years to come, a majority of Canada’s medical practitioners will be women. Yet female surgeons are paid 24% less per hour than male surgeons. Research cited by Doolittle and Wang in their reporting indicates that “[w]omen in Canadian medicine consistently earn less than men”, that this disparity exists both within and across medical specialties, and that it is not caused by female medical professionals working fewer hours, or less effectively. Clearly, representation is not the only issue at play when it comes to the power gap- systemic bias is a factor as well. And with a health-care system that is dangerously in turmoil, it’s a factor that needs to be addressed.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Canada’s attitude towards its health care workers has been under scrutiny. Most agree that the Canadian health care system was underfunded well before the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last 4 months, reports of a health care system in crisis continue to roll in from across the country, including Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and British Columbia.
Establishing gender equity in pay could be an important step, along with other measures, like streamlining the immigration procedure for health-care workers. (There is a path to permanent residence for health-care workers from other countries, but it requires that you already be a failed or pending refugee claimant, and the Canadian government stopped accepting claims of this sort in March 2020.)
It’s hard not to feel discouraged. Dr. Nancy Baxter, a surgeon, scientist, professor, and renowned expert on cancer screening and cancer survivorship, but in recent years, has turned her attention to the gender gap in medicine. Quoted in the Globe, she says “I thought, if I don’t try to do something, nothing is ever going to change. I’m a Gen Xer, and I think most of us just thought … in 20 years, it’s going to be a different world. It’s not. And it’s been quite disappointing[.]”
The Power Gap is the Gender Gap and the Racial Gap February 3, 2021