Gender gap persists

On Tricia Davis’s first day of work at a coal mine in B.C.’s Elk Valley, she says she spotted a heart and a penis scrawled on some dusty equipment.

And on a bus ride home one day from the Teck Coal Ltd. operation, Davis — who started there as a truck driver in June 2017 — says two male co-workers insinuated she was working as a prostitute.

They allegedly told her: "Oh look it's your corner, that’s where you belong."

"I waited for two years to finally have the opportunity to work at Teck and have never been so humiliated in my life," Davis, who quit that job, said in a complaint filed to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

Teck later investigated her allegations, but concluded she "mischaracterized" what happened, the Tribunal wrote in a December decision that denied the mining company's request to dismiss her complaint. Davis could not be reached for comment, but a Teck spokesman said the company has reached a confidential settlement and has since taken steps to address the concerns raised in the complaint.

Her experience is indicative of the challenges women continue to face in Canadian workplaces — particularly in industries like mining that remain male-dominated.

But the lack of diversity in the ranks of Canadian companies extends far beyond specific industries and remains a problem in the country’s most powerful and influential firms.

The Canadian Press asked all firms included in the TSX 60 index as of Jan 1. 2019 to share data on how many women and employees who identify as visible minorities, as defined in the Employment Equity Act, worked at their companies in 2017.

Among the companies who responded, some said women comprise as little as eight per cent of the workforce, while many others refused to disclose.

What’s more, many of the firms on the TSX 60 won’t say — or aren’t even tracking — how many of their employees identify as visible minorities.

These publicly listed companies are not required by law to disclose such information, but advocates have long called for transparency and for companies to — at minimum — track data and to measure progress, in a bid to facilitate change.

One-quarter, or 15 firms, did not provide or otherwise publicly disclose figures for gender representation.

Nearly 60 per cent, or 35 companies, did not provide or publicly release the representation of visible minorities in their ranks and more than 23 per cent, or 14 companies, said they were not tracking the metric at all.

Among the 42 companies included on the index that did share specific or percentage data on gender diversity in their workforce, 34 indicated that less than 50 per cent of their workforce was female — less than the national average.

In two cases, the percentage of women employees was in the single digits.

Paulette Senior, president of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, called the number of companies unwilling to share or track the level of diversity "surprising and disappointing" because she believes the lack of disclosure suggests many of the companies are not interested in ensuring their workforce is reflective of society.

"Transparency is a very brave thing to do… and it takes courage to actually want to know the truth because once you know it, it means that something probably needs to be done about it," Senior said.

The Canadian Press analysis showed that the banks — which mostly provided Canada-specific data and were at the higher end of the representation spectrum — seem to have made the most concerted efforts towards equality, while mining, engineering and rail companies continued to struggle to attract and retain women.

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