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A study finds that Canadian women make $8,000 less than men doing equivalent work.lofilolo/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Canadian working women are making about $8,000 less a year than men doing an equivalent job, says a study that highlights the persistence of gender inequalities in the workplace.

That gap is double the global average, said Alex Johnston, executive director of Catalyst Canada, a Toronto-based research and consulting firm aimed at improving opportunities for women.

"The global pay gap was about $4,000 on average between men and women, and the Canadian pay gap was just over $8,000," she said, citing the long-term study by her firm.

"The pay gap we see at Catalyst [is], when you put men and women beside each other with similar skills, qualifications performing similar roles."

Ms. Johnston noted women's decisions to take time off to have children or to choose jobs that don't lead to advancement are often blamed for the pay gap.

But she said the gap exists even when those choices are factored out.

Ms. Johnston's data are cited in a wider report to be released on Wednesday that was compiled from submissions by 400 community leaders who met last fall to come up with ways to support women's economic growth. Speakers included Ms. Johnston, B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Kellie Leitch, the federal Status of Women Minister.

A week ago, female faculty at McMaster University got a raise after a two-year study showed they earned on average $3,515 less than their male counterparts in 2012 and 2013, even after seniority, tenure, faculty and age were taken into account.

The report to be released on Wednesday, entitled Women as a Catalyst for Economic Growth: A British Columbia Action Plan, shares data that it says show progress has been slow.

Even though women comprise nearly half of the Canadian labour force, they made up just 5.3 per cent of Canadian CEOs and held just 15.9 per cent of board seats in S & P/TSX 60 companies in 2013.

In 2014, representation of women on boards was up slightly to 20.8 per cent despite growing talent pools, according to the report.

In November, The Globe and Mail reported that women account for just 6.6 per cent of board members at the top public companies based in British Columbia.

Ms. Johnston attributed some of the slow progress to systemic issues that are difficult to shake for women.

"[There is] a certain narrow definition of what a leader looks like, physically, and characteristically," she said.

"Men are being mentored by more senior people who effectively act as sponsors for and create opportunities for them for advancement that are very powerful," she said.

Citing a recent study that tracked thousands of MBAs out of school since 2008, Ms. Johnston said the differences can be seen in the jobs being offered "and most significantly, early on in their careers, men and women being put on different paths with different work opportunities, bigger projects, bigger budgets, more direct reports, more exposure to senior level people.

"That all adds up to creating a disservice not only to men and women, but also to companies too."

Jill Earthy, co-chair of the Web Alliance of Women's Business Networks, which represents more than 10,000 women in business in B.C., and compiled the B.C. report, noted it is common wisdom that corporations benefit from diversity in leadership, but important work remains to ensure a solid foundation for such diversity is laid.

She said women at the beginning of their careers have a responsibility to ask for help and those that have succeeded have a responsibility to "reach back and make sure that we're continuing to support those coming behind us."

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