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B.C. women are financially stretched, alarmingly stressed: survey

Governments, employers and financial institutions urged to resolve the financial health gender gap

Despite years of gradual improvements and movement towards gender equality, women of all ages in B.C. still face more challenges to their financial health and well-being than their male counterparts, a new survey suggests.

Released ahead of International Women’s Day, a Vancity Financial survey says that women in the province are most concerned about housing affordability, cost of living increases and sticking to household budgets.

In those key areas, more than 50 per cent of respondents say they lose sleep at night worrying about their pocket book – and for some, the stress takes an emotional and even physical toll.

About half of B.C. millennials say that money worries make them physically unwell, the report shows, with six-in-10 citing “extreme emotional stress.”

The report also highlights financial and economic differences between women in B.C. and other parts of Canada – with no single factor contributing to women’s financial woes.

Using data from the 2017 Canadian Financial Health Index and other sources, the report finds that B.C. women are paid less per hour than the national average for women. Meanwhile, their average employment income per year is 35 per cent less than men in B.C., with an average salary of $34,149 verses $52,171 earned by men.

The report also grabs from a variety of other surveys that reveal, at least in corporate Canada, women are less likely than men to be promoted to the next level, “at almost every stage of their careers.”

According to a 2017 scorecard in which Minerva BC rated the “faces of leadership” within the province, women held only 19 per cent of their board positions, on average, and just 20 per cent of their senior executive leadership positions.

Statistics Canada has identified the high cost of child care, low availability of regulated childcare spaces and lack of elder care in urban centres such as Metro Vancouver as factors keeping some women from full participation in the job market.

Vancity says women can take steps on their own to overcome some issues, but it calls for governments, employers and financial institutions to resolve the financial health gender gap.

“This is a call to action, and time for everyone, women and men, to acknowledge that gender-based financial disparities remain a deeply-embedded reality in Canada, and especially in B.C.,” says Sophie Salcito, a Vancity wealth adviser.

The Vancity study says more financial literacy courses can help women bridge financial health gaps and it urges governments to diversify vocational interests among girls and women, while companies are encouraged to develop and stick with equal pay policies.

International Women’s Day is Thursday.

Money Troubled: Inside B.C.'s financial health gender gap by Ashley Wadhwani on Scribd

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