Gender wage gap widens for in-house counsel across Canada: study

Female in-house counsel report an average base salary $24,000 less than male counterparts

Gender wage gap widens for in-house counsel across Canada: study

Women continue to earn less than men in the same roles in the legal profession, according to a new study by The Counsel Network and the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association. In 2022, female in-house counsel in Canada earned $24,000 less than their male counterparts – compared to a $19,000 discrepancy reported pre-pandemic in 2020.

The seventh In-House Counsel Compensation & Career Survey found that most substantial gaps continue to be seen at higher wage levels with 42 percent of males receiving a mean salary of over $200,000 compared to 19 percent of females earning at that level. Women are paid less than men at all job role levels, the report found. For legal counsel, the male-female gap is the smallest: $6,500 to the male’s advantage. At the general counsel executive level, the male advantage is $23,500.

“It is disappointing to see the gender pay gap has increased, and we’ve made no progress to decrease the gap in the last two years,” says Dal Bhathal, managing partner for The Counsel Network. “There is a long way to go before we can achieve equal pay for women and men.”

Racialized lawyers reported a mean salary $8,000 below that reported by non-racialized lawyers, compared to a $12,000 gap in 2020. Results also showed participants with disabilities report a mean salary $17,500 lower than non-disabled lawyers in the same role – a slightly reduced gap ($1,500) compared to 2020. Workplace is a factor in this finding as most participating lawyers with disabilities work in government or not-for-profit sectors, which report lower mean base salaries.

“The legal profession continues to identify the need to build diversity, and the survey results back up that need with these statistics,” says Bhathal. “The slight reduction in the pay gap between racialized lawyers and non-racialized lawyers, as well as lawyers with disabilities and those with none is encouraging. Nevertheless, it highlights the need for continued efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion. Reporting on the gaps regularly is necessary to achieving equal pay.”

The report also found that the national average base salary for in-house counsel in Canada stands at $180,000 – a significant increase from the $167,500 reported in 2020. Ontario respondents report average base salaries above the national average.

Financial services, insurance, and banks continue to be the sector most represented by in-house counsel, followed by government. This year, the highest average base salaries are found in the resources/mining/forestry ($233,000); retail/hospitality, food and beverage, consumer products ($212,000); manufacturing/automotive/aerospace/chemical ($206,000); oil & gas ($200,000); information technology ($190,000); and pharma/medical ($184,000). The largest gains in annual base salaries are in retail/hospitality, food and beverage, consumer products (up $38,000); information technology (up $20,000); and pharma/medical (up $20,000). Among the top twelve industries, there were no notable down shifts.

The 2022 results showed that 65 percent of in-house counsel are very or somewhat satisfied with work-life balance – a near 10 percent decrease from 2020’s pre-pandemic score of 74 percent. Most respondents expressed a decline in mental health and wellbeing due to the pandemic.

“The impact of Covid-19 has been widespread,” says Bhathal. “The results highlight the need for all organizations to focus on talent management strategies to not only recruit, but also manage and retain the best legal talent.”

The 2022 In-House Counsel Compensation & Career Survey was commissioned by The Counsel Network in partnership with the CCCA. This is the seventh wave of this research, with previous studies conducted in 2020, 2018, 2016, 2012, 2010 and 2009. The survey was conducted by Bramm Research between January 25, 2022 to March 3, 2022, and included over 90 questions. The 1,009 respondents represented in-house counsel from all major cities across Canada and included a variety of sectors and titles.

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