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The Globe and Mail collected data from the 25 largest cities in Canada

About 80 per cent of Canadians live in cities. And if you’re one of those people, perhaps no level of government has more impact on your daily life. From transit and housing to daycare and infrastructure, shelters and cultural events to recreation programs and facilities, everything flows through city hall. Municipal civil servants plan how the city looks, where the parks go, and what rules developers have to follow. They decide when snow gets cleared, when your garbage gets picked up, and your local tax rate. You want to renovate your house? Get a marriage licence? Pay a parking ticket? Lobby for a new bike lane? Have a pothole filled? It’s all done through city hall.

The Globe and Mail collected data from the 25 largest cities in Canada that provide disclosure. The largest was Toronto, with nearly 3 million residents; the smallest was Sherbrooke, with about 160,000. Calgary, Edmonton, Surrey, B.C., and Richmond, B.C., were not included because they either don’t release information or the disclosure did not include job titles. (Longueuil was excluded because their disclosure was less than 10 people.) Knowing job titles was necessary because early analysis showed that some municipalities lumped emergency services (police, fire and ambulance) in with regular municipal employees. Particularly with police and fire, these male-dominated professions dramatically skewed the numbers. In some cases, about half of all the employees on municipal disclosure lists were firefighters. For this reason, The Globe worked with each municipality to filter out emergency services.

Only high-income earners are included in public sector salary disclosure. In most cases, it applies to employees who earn $100,000 or more. In provinces with a lower threshold, The Globe removed the employees below that six-figure bar. With the exception of Montreal, the four other cities in Quebec were excluded from the wider salary analysis, because they only released information for the most senior staff. These entities could be included in the gender breakdown of the “power positions.” (Montreal agreed to release the first — but not last — names of its employees so we could complete the gender analysis.) The Globe’s data comes from the 2017 or 2017/2018, depending on how the organization handles its fiscal year. (Read more about our methodology.)

The Power Gap

In general, women were outnumbered two to one in municipal governments, although the overall wage gap was non-existent. At the executive level, it was a similar story, although male decision-makers did earn more. (When calculating the gender divide among “power positions,” the Globe included the president in the overall representation number, but not the average salary.)

Male illustration

Overall gender representation

vs. 35%

Overall average salary

vs. $122,207

Overall gender representation
in "power position" decision-making roles

vs. 34%

Overall average salary
in "power position" decision-making roles

vs. $199,727
Female illustration

Breaking down the Power Gap

To better understand where women are in the workplace, the Globe assessed each entity’s gender representation at individual salary levels. Large entities — those with 100 or more six-figure earners — were examined with 10 bands. Smaller ones with five.

Municipal governments showed a different pattern than entities in other pillars. As was the case elsewhere, the number of women in the pipeline started to shrink on the way to the top. But in many cities, women’s numbers rebounded toward the end. Some experts interviewed by The Globe speculated that this could be evidence of employers making efforts to diversify their senior ranks – the layer that also happens to be most visible to the public. The other element of note is that the gender divide held relatively steady at each salary band. However, women were underrepresented to begin with among high-income municipal employees. At every level, women are outnumbered about two to one.

Gender representation legend

The top 1 percentile

For each city, the Globe analyzed the top 1 percentile of earners. On average, women were again outnumbered two to one at this salary threshold. Of the 30 women in this category where the Globe could determine race, 2 are women of colour.

Digging deeper

Below, you can explore the gender breakdown at individual cities and filter the results by province. In about half of the cities, women’s numbers increased in the final salary band. The most extreme example was Windsor, Ont., where women initially made up just 18 per cent of the lowest salary band, but 60 per cent in the highest.

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The Power Gap on leadership teams

Using common job title keywords – such as city manager, chief administrative officer, deputy city manager, commissioner, and director – and publicly-available organizational charts and executive team biographies, The Globe identified employees that held key decision-making roles at each city. These are the executive “power positions.” (A reminder that Quebec’s disclosure included data for senior positions, so those entities could be included in this section.) The gender divide among municipal leadership was 38 per cent, but the number of female city managers was abysmal: just two out of 25 cities.

Female representation in positions of power by entity

Below you can explore the gender breakdown among power positions at individual cities.

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With reporting and research from Andrew Saikali, Stephanie Chambers, Tavia Grant, Denise Balkissoon and Tu Thanh Ha.


  • Story editing: Dawn Calleja
  • Design and art direction: Ming Wong
  • Web design and development: Christopher Manza
  • Illustration and graphics: Murat Yükselir
  • Photo editing: Theresa Suzuki
  • Data science consulting and verification: Lola Abduvaitova
  • Data science consulting: Shengqing Wu
  • Data verification: Tom Cardoso
  • Michael Pereira also contributed to the project

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