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CCCA survey shows in-house salaries for women lag those of male peers

|Written By Jennifer Brown
CCCA chairman Geoff Creighton says it would be interesting to find out if the gender issue is systemic or based on individual circumstance.

Female in-house counsel are making less than their male counterparts and on average receive lower annual salary increases, according to a survey released today by the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association.

Conducted by Ipsos Reid and developed jointly by the CCCA and The Counsel Network, the In-House Compensation and Career Survey provides information on compensation, benefits, work hours, and job satisfaction of Canadian in-house counsel.

According to the survey, in-house counsel earn about $155,000 per year on average. That represents an increase of $4,500 since 2010.

“The good news is it’s gone up on a modest basis,” says CCCA chairman Geoff Creighton while speaking from the annual Canadian Bar Association conference in Vancouver. “Many have been constrained by less than three per cent throughout the period from 2009 as a general salary increase.”

For the most part, average salaries have increased consistently across the various industries. Salaries within the information technology, manufacturing, automotive, and aerospace sectors have seen the most significant hike of $18,000 while average pay within the telecommunications sector as well as government and Crown corporations have seen the greatest downward shifts since 2010.

Results show that women earn about 16 per cent less than their male counterparts on average. Among those surveyed, a higher proportion of women hold the more junior, lower-paying jobs of legal and senior counsel. Surveyed men, on the other hand, are more likely to hold the higher-level positions that offer a better salary as general counsel at the director and executive levels.

While that would appear to explain the disparity in salary by gender, a further look at the results tells another story.

When each role is isolated and the average salaries are compared within each of them, men’s pay is consistently higher than that of women. On average, men are making more than women in comparable roles.

“While there seems to remain an issue with gender, it would be interesting to conduct interviews to see if it’s something systemic or how much of it is particular to the individual circumstance,” says Creighton.

As well, male in-house counsel are also twice as likely as women to be the beneficiaries of a 10-per-cent or higher salary increase over the past year.

Among those surveyed, 37 per cent of female in-house counsel are in legal counsel roles compared to only 29 per cent of males. Twenty-three per cent of men occupy executive vice president legal, vice president legal, and director of legal roles. That compares to 14 per cent of women.

The survey also found 96 per cent of those in-house counsel surveyed work full time.

“I would have thought the in-house context lends itself to part-time work more than a law firm ever did,” says Creighton. “When you’re an employed lawyer in an in-house context, there should be greater flexibility for that.”

By organization type, Crown corporations (24 per cent) are far more likely to have a freeze on salary. That number compares to privately owned companies at 14 per cent, publicly quoted entities at 13 per cent, and not-for-profit organizations at nine per cent when it comes to having no salary increases over the past year.

Satisfaction with work/life balance and base salary differentials by region, organization, and industry are among the other findings contained in the survey this year. In-house counsel’s satisfaction with their work-life balance improved in 2012 with 78 per cent either somewhat or very satisfied. The number is slightly above 2009 at 76 per cent.

It also seems the last few years have had an influence on how loyal in-house counsel feel to their employers as the number of people who expressed loyalty has gone up. At the same time, the number of people who feel less loyal also increased compared to previous years.

“Perhaps stressed economic times has created potential for greater polarization,” says Creighton.

The survey was completed by 738 in-house counsel between May and June 2012 with the majority, 43 per cent, from Ontario; 21 per cent from Alberta; 13 per cent from Quebec; 11 per cent from B.C.; and the balance coming from the rest of the country.

  • Janine
    Unfortunately, work-life balance is an insufficient explanation. I have spoken about this for a few years with other women in senior legal in house roles, and none of us have children or have required special flexibility during our careers. Consistently, we make less than our male counterparts in similar roles with similar work experience. My personal view is that it may come down to how some of us present ourselves - after 15 years in practice, including several in private practice, it is clear to me that often women and men approach compensation differently. Men typically are more insistent on recognition and higher compensation, whereas women often tend to be less so. Is that a remnant of how we were raised to be "good girls" and not to make waves that is changing with the newer generations? I hope so.
  • J Westphal
    I see your point and have read elsewhere that some believe overall pay disparities may be due in part to the fact women may not be as aggressive in negotiating their salaries. Still and all, I would have thought that anyone who has practiced law for any length of time should almost by definition be be a fairly aggressive negotiator. In any event, this is all anecdotal and the issue is troubling enough that I'd like to know how the actual data breaks down.
  • J Westphal
    My supposition here is that the opportunity for better work-life balance that induces people to leave private practice for in house counsel roles in the first place may well be an even greater consideration for women with children looking to get off the billable hours treadmill. I'd like to see how the numbers break down by gender vis a vis hours worked and flexible scheduling/working from home and see to what extent this may explain the disparity.

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