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Balancing priorities: life, family and work

Retaining women with children

Retaining women with children

Demographic shifts have had a significant impact on the makeup of the global workforce in recent decades, and employers need to catch up. There’s a strong business case for retaining women with children considering the following trends:

  • On average, women are more established in their careers by the time they have children.
  • Women are having children later in life, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). From 1970 to 2015, the mean age of first-time mothers in OECD countries rose four years to 29.

Eighty-four percent of professional women are part of a dual-career couple. Of the mothers in our survey, 38% are the primary earners in their relationship.


Childcare and the gender pay gap

Our Women in Work Index report revealed that governments’ family-related policies, such as families and parental leave, are significant factors in the gender pay gap across the OECD. One of the findings is that countries with higher government spending on family welfare, including childcare, are associated with smaller gender pay gaps, according to Statistics Canada.

In Canada, the gender employment gap was greater in census metropolitan areas with high daycare fees. Statistics Canada research shows the labour supply of mothers is sensitive to variations in the cost of childcare. Quebec is a leading example with the lowest cost of childcare in the country by a significant margin due to its universal low-fee child care program and refundable tax credit, resulting in the smallest gender employment gap among census metropolitan areas.

Understanding the impact of childcare costs on gender pay gaps and the labour supply of mothers is a starting point for organizations to build effective programs and policies to support mothers returning to the workforce.


Childcare and the gender pay gap

Sharing parental leave

While a generous paid maternity leave policy is intended to support families, it can actually lead to bigger gender pay gaps, as women are out of workforce for a longer period of time. In Canada, 47% of women take at least one parental leave, compared to 3.8% of their male counterparts. When we look at duration outside of workforce due to family care responsibility, women experience longer career interruptions (15.2 months on average) than men (3.7 months), according to Statistics Canada.

The recent introduction of shared parental leave can help address this by levelling the playing field through shared responsibility. Starting in June 2019, the Canadian government plans to give couples who share parental leave an additional five weeks of paid benefits to increase male parental leave participation, which has already proven to work in Quebec.

Although governments are mandating more family-friendly solutions and many organizations now devote resources to support parental leave policies and flexible working conditions, this has not convinced everyone.

Now is a good time for organizations and leaders to review policies, programs and processes related to parental leave and return-to-work transition. Organizations are starting to look at different ways to encourage both partners to take shared parental leave whether it’s through a financial incentive or creating a culture of shared family care responsibility.


In Canada, 47% of women take at least one parental leave, compared to 3.8% of their male counterparts

In Canada, 47% of women take at least one parental leave, compared to 3.8% of their male counterparts.

Key actions to take now

Develop an off and on ramp to allow for a smooth transition when returning to work with senior leader support.

Create a culture that encourages couples to take a shared parental leave without penalty.

Contact us

Jean McClellan

Jean McClellan

National Consulting People and Organization Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 403 509 7578

Baya  Benouniche

Baya Benouniche

Partner, People and Organization, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 514 205 5409

Matt Pittman

Matt Pittman

Partner, HR Transformation, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 815 5008

Kim Vander Aerschot

Kim Vander Aerschot

Partner, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 814 5893

Sofia Theodorou

Sofia Theodorou

Chief People Officer, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 9233

Ellen Corkery Dooher

Ellen Corkery Dooher

Federal Government & Public Sector Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 613 755 5901

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