Yukon exceeds 20-year low for gender equity amongst deputy ministers

·3 min read

Three deputy minister shuffles, hires and departures since September 2021 have resulted in a new low for female participation in the highest ranks of Yukon’s public service.

Aja Mason, executive director of the Yukon’s Status of Women Council, called the situation “profoundly concerning.”

Female participation in deputy minister circles was precariously low this past year, but with the departure of Valerie Royle in September, and the permanent appointment of Justin Ferbey to her former position, coupled with the appointment of Michael Hale as an additional deputy minister for Health, the percentage of female participation at the top of the administrative hierarchy diminished further.

At 17 per cent, the ratio of female deputy ministers is lower now than 20 years ago.

Data provided Dec. 23 by the Yukon’s public service commission showed that in 2020, three positions out of 16 were held by women. From 2005 to 2010, the number increased to four. In 2015, there were five women out of 15 positions. Then 2020 dropped to four of 16, and now at the end of 2021, three women are found within the 18 deputy minister level positions (DM00).

Reading the positions as a percentage of the total in each of incremental years the numbers are: 2000 – 19 per cent, 2005 – 29 per cent, 2010 – 27 per cent, 2015 – 33 per cent, 2020 – 25 per cent.

December 2021 has the lowest rate with only 17 per cent of deputy minister positions being female.

All deputy heads are hired by the premier. This means that Sandy Silver fires, hires and shuffles all the high-ranking officials himself. Since 2015, three additional deputy level positions have been added to the top rung of the bureaucratic ladder.

Mason says that the problem with a male-dominated lens at the top of the administrative hierarchy is not only that women’s issues and concerns are not reflected in the decisions made by government, but also that the quality of decisions, in general, suffer.

In other words, the concerns and issues of men tend to dominate conversations, policies and decisions.

Salaries and bonuses

The Yukon government, though far less forthright than many of its provincial counterparts, does publish the annual salary ranges of management positions on their website, but not by number or gender. Some provincial governments publish the data with names.

The information that will soon be posted for 2022 shows that a deputy minister or president of a corporation (DM00) in any of 18 designated Yukon government positions, will make between $190,00 and $254,000 annually.

Additionally, because deputy ministers are eligible for an annual performance award of up to 10 per cent, could mean that the top salaried deputy ministers are paid up to $280,000 per year plus benefits, vacation and other allowances.

The salary gap between deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers is around $50,000 annually (46,000 for the lower level and 58,000 at the maximum level). The discretional performance bonus for ADMs and other managers is seven per cent.

The lowest level government managers (MG6) in the Yukon government make $88,000 to $122,000, still half the annual amount of the deputies.

Policy watchers and researchers across the country have kept on eye on the progress around the wage differential and the percentage of top female executives and deputy ministers who are women, and often cite that the gap between men and women in the very top echelons does not appear to be moving. It appears that 2022 will start with the Yukon government having fewer woman earning anywhere near the top salaries accorded senior men.

The government can, and must, work harder to reduce the barriers facing women, Mason said.

“The Yukon territorial government has an obligation to ensure women are represented at multiple levels of government — not just the lower paying, lower powered positions,” she said.

Lawrie Crawford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Yukon News

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