The results of a recent compensation survey of Canadian in-house lawyers indicate that on average, female in-house counsel are earning 15% less than their male in-house peers. While the wage gap did not increase between the previous survey in 2012 and this year’s survey, there wasn’t a decrease in the four-year period either.
The Canadian Corporate Counsel Association (CCCA) and The Counsel Network survey, conducted by Bramm Research, was presented at the CCCA national conference in Calgary in early April. The 2016 In-House Counsel Compensation & Career Survey, which also took place in 2012, 2010 and 2009, had 962 respondents this year from all major cities in Canada.
“We should, in fact, start to see that gap shrinking,” says Sameera Sereda, managing partner of The Counsel Network.
There is a higher percentage of female in-house counsel in government, Crown, and not-for-profit organizations compared to males, but in all sectors — except government, where women have wage parity — male in-house lawyers earn a higher salary than women.
“Where you really see the difference is if you’re a general counsel in a public company and you’re a woman — you’re making less money than if you are a general counsel in a public company and you’re a man. That’s what’s key — in the business world where there aren’t standardized pay equity rules, we’re seeing that disparity and that’s where it’s even bigger,” says Sereda.
The average male in-house counsel base salary is currently C$178,000. That’s C$26,700 higher than the average female in-house counsel base salary of C$152,000.
While some might suggest the discrepancy exists because “men have been in the workforce longer,” the reality is men have fewer average years as both legal counsel and senior counsel, yet they still earn a higher base salary, according to the survey.
So what’s being done to address the wage gap for women? Sereda says the next step is dealing with the compensation issue at the board level at public companies.
“It’s very much tied to the boards. There’s been a lot of discussion about board diversity and women on boards. The more women we have on boards, the more board influence there will be on hiring senior positions on companies,” she says.