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Teachers in British Columbia: A feminized workforce

October 2018

Over the past 15 years, the percentage of teachers in BC public schools who are female has steadily increased: from approximately 62% in 1991–92 to 72% in 2016.1  This trend is likely to continue as new teachers, who are overwhelmingly female, enter the workforce. For example, in 2016–17, 83% percent of teachers ages 20 to 29 were female.2

Teachers in British Columbia: A feminized workforce graph 1

Source: BC Schools–Teacher Statistics, Ministry of Education

Teachers in British Columbia: A feminized workforce graph 2

Source: BC Schools–Teacher Statistics, Ministry of Education

Teachers in British Columbia: A feminized workforce graph 3

Source: BC Schools–Teacher Statistics, Ministry of Education

A feminised workforce

Historically, teaching provided job opportunities for women in Canada, but these opportunities were characterized by low pay as well as stereotypical attitudes related to women’s innate ability to nurture children.3 Women, for example, were viewed as more suited to elementary school teaching, while men made up a much larger percentage of secondary school teachers. Even today, the gendered division of labor is reflected in a disproportionate number of men in secondary school positions. According to the 2016 census, while approximately 27% of the total teacher population (public and independent) is male, 45% of secondary school teachers are male.4

The gendered division of labour is also reflected in the number of male and female administrators. In the early 90s, over 70% of administrators were male. By 2016–17, this had decreased to just under 50%. While this is important progress, there is still a way to go before management reflects the teachers they work with.5 The BCTF believes that “a more equitable distribution of women and men should be included in school staffs at all levels.”6

Female teachers are also more likely than male teachers to take part- time positions. In the 2016–17 school year, just over one in ten male teachers taught part-time, while just over one in four female teachers taught part-time.7 Teachers choose to work part-time for multiple reasons, and the right to part-time work is an important working condition. However, part-time work is also an effect of a gendered division of responsibilities in relation to childcare and other family responsibilities. According to a national report from 2009, 17% of female part-time workers said they worked part-time because of child care and other family or personal responsibilities, as compared to 2.3% of male part-time workers.8 Furthermore, it is estimated that taking time off to raise children raises a teacher’s contributory service (the number of years worked for determining pension eligibility) by an average of two years.9

Moving forward:
gender, participation and leadership

In BC, union activism has played a crucial role in working toward equitable working conditions for female teachers. Hilda Cryderman led the fight for equal pay for equal work when she became the BCTF’s first female president in 1954.10 The BCTF Status of Women program, born out of the feminist movement of the early seventies, was instrumental in fights for maternity leave, part-time work, equal pay, fair pensions, freedom from sexual harassment, and more at the bargaining table.11 The collective bargaining process remains a key mechanism for working towards equity for all teachers, with priorities such as the creation of an intimate partner violence leave and improvements to parental leave benefits.

The BCTF is also actively committed to equity within the union. For example, at the 2017 AGM, delegates passed a recommendation establishing an annual institute to support and encourage more women in undertaking leadership roles within the BCTF.12 The union has also begun to engage with gender outside of a traditional man/woman binary understanding of identity. For instance, the union now provides gender-neutral washrooms at all BCTF events and meetings and encourages all attendees and speakers to use gender-neutral language.13  Engaging with how gender identity is conceptualized, and the implications for union participation, is an ongoing and key part of the BCTF’s commitment to equity for all teachers. 

1 This research report refers to data for “gender” as “male” or “female”, as per how the Ministry of Education has classified teacher statistical data. However, as stated in guidance released in April 2018 by Statistics Canada, sex and gender are distinct concepts. Broader than male/female (sex), or man/woman (gender), gender identity occurs along a spectrum and can change over time. The Ministry currently reports “gender” as only “male” or “female”, pointing to the need for more nuanced data collection techniques and reporting. See: pl?Function=DEC&Id=410445.

2 BCTF Calculation Tables based on Teacher Statistics published by the Ministry of Education.

3 Gaskell, J., & McLaren, A. (Eds.). (1987). Women and education: A Canadian perspective. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council.

4 BCTF Calculation Tables based on 2016 Canadian Census. Statistics Canada. (2018). “98-400- X2016357 - Occupation - National Occupational Classification (NOC) 2016 (691), Employment Income Statistics (3), Highest Certificate, Diploma or Degree (7), Aboriginal Identity (9), Work Activity During the Reference Year (4), Age (4D) and Sex (3) for the Population Aged 15 Years and Over Who Worked in 2015 and Reported Employment Income in 2015, in Private Households of Canada, Provinces and Territories and Census Metropolitan Areas, 2016 Census - 25% Sample Data”. 2016 Census of Population. Government of Canada. Retrieved from: www150.statcan.

5 BCTF procedure (41.B.06) is in place to “encourage women to increase their participation in the decision-making bodies of the Federation and the education system” (41.B.06). See: BCTF. (2018). Members’ Guide to the BCTF. Retrieved from

6 BCTF procedure 41.D.11. See: BCTF. (2018). Members’ Guide to the BCTF. Retrieved from

7 Analysis and Reporting Unit, Ministry of Education. (2018). BC Schools - Teacher Statistics. Government of British Columbia. Retrieved from: teacher-statistics.

8 Statistics Canada. (2009). Women in Canada: A gender-based statistical report. Retrieved from

9 Eckler. (2018). Actuarial report on British Columbia Teachers’ Pension Plan. Vancouver, BC.

10 See:

11 See:

12 See: Inclusion%20Key%20AGM%20Decisions%202017.pdf

13 Ibid.

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