On average, male teachers in SD#5 earn $5,675 more annually than their female counterparts, according to teacher statistics files kept by the B.C. Ministry of Education.
While the average age of teachers is the same in the district, just around 40 years of age, female teachers make up a much larger portion of the population, with 267 female and 84 males.
“The grid is the same for everybody,” said Rob Noram, treasurer for the school district, explaining that the pay system does not discriminate. “The grid is not gender specific.”
He says that an explanation for the difference lies in the percentage of males with master’s degrees in the faculty.
“A higher percentage of males have master’s degrees,” said Noram. “Why do almost 30 per cent of the males have master’s degrees and only 20 per cent of the females?”
He says he does not have an explanation for why that might be, or what factors play a role; but admitted that it is a question of interest.
“A higher percentage of males have their masters, but there’s only 24 per cent of our population who are male,”said Noram, explaining that in the Elk Valley we have eight females in leadership roles and four males.
“It’s not an issue that is talked about because there is equal opportunity,” said Noram. He says personal choices and the role of mothers with young children may affect the prevalence of female teachers attaining master’s degrees.
“If males decide to go into education, they’re more apt to decide to get their master’s degrees,” he said.
Dr. Rebecca Sullivan is a professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Calgary.
“If this is the case, then the next step for the district is to look into their own programs and advancement opportunities to determine why is it that men are able to go get a master’s degree?”
She says that the closest university offering graduate programs in education is a three-hour-drive away, concluding that the question is about what dynamics are at play that make it easier for men to get their Master’s degrees over women.
“Are they making these opportunities equally accessible?” she said.
She says there are all sorts of other questions about the access to online education, as well as about the ability for women to leave home and get a graduate degree over their male counterparts.
“Women are less encouraged within their families to advance their careers in any way that would compromise their responsibilities to their family,” said Sullivan. “They are flat-out accused of abandoning their families.”
She says the barriers can be both explicit and implicit.
In an area where graduate degrees are not readily accessible, logistically, Sullivan says perhaps the district should re-evaluate why they use the level of education as a criteria.
“It’s not uncommon, that when men enter into traditionally feminine occupations like teaching and nursing, that they do end up rising faster in leadership and being paid more,” said Sullivan, explaining that the term for the phenomenon is the Glass Escalator, which she adds is a fairly common occurrence.
“It’s incumbent upon them to not stop the conservation there,” said Sullivan. “The next step is why.”