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Equal Pay Day: ACWS Reveals Findings of Shelter Workforce Survey

April 7, 2021

EDMONTON, ALBERTA—April 7, 2021 marks Equal Pay Day in Canada, a symbolic date that represents how far into the new year women must work to be paid what men were paid the previous year. On average in Canada, women earn about 89 cents for every dollar earned by men. The gap widens to 67 cents for racialized women, 65 cents for Indigenous women, and 54 cents for women with disabilities.[1]

To coincide with Equal Pay Day and to bring awareness to women workers in feminized sectors, the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters has released a summary of their recently completed 2019-2020 Shelter Workforce Survey. The summary is now available on the ACWS website.

The ACWS survey provides insight not only into experiences of domestic violence shelters in terms of operations and staffing, but into the experiences of women in the workplace within the broader labour market. The report’s recommendations indicate that there are opportunities for systemic changes to better support the needs of women in Alberta’s workforce, and especially in non-profit and traditionally feminized sectors.[2]

“ACWS’ member shelters have a skilled, professional labour force, which is essential to their continued ability to serve the needs of women, children and seniors fleeing domestic violence,” said Jan Reimer, Executive Director of ACWS. “The long hours, shift work, and emotionally draining nature of shelter work can take its toll. We are hoping the National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence will help provide more durable and stable funding from all levels of government.”

Although salaries in women’s shelters have increased year over year since 2015-16, shelters’ average work weeks have increased over this same period. When compensation is adjusted for hours worked, year-over-year increases are lower for many positions. Alberta’s women’s shelter workforce earned less in terms of both salary and hourly wage and worked longer hours than the average worker in an equivalent role in the province’s non-profit and public sectors. While sheltering agencies received a significant $15 million (44%) increase in provincial funding in 2015, none of these dollars were allocated for wage increases.[3] Indeed, the last increase in the provincial funding model for shelter wages was in 2014.

As women-serving organizations in the non-profit sector, many external sources of gender inequality influence shelters and their workforce. The overwhelming representation of women in the shelter workforce and the nature of shelter work is tied to what is known as the “care penalty.” This phenomenon results in compensation across an entire sector being lower when its jobs parallel domestic work that, traditionally, women were expected to perform for free. The effects of these gender-based inequalities only increase as race and ability intersect with gender for female workers, regardless of the sector they work in.[4]

More stable funding for women-serving organizations, accessible childcare, and funding benefits specific to women, are among the report’s recommendations.

Jan Reimer, ACWS Executive Director, is available for interviews on Wednesday April 7, 2021 between the hours of 8am to 9am and 1pm to 2pm, or other times upon request.



Summary: ACWS Shelter Workforce Survey 2019-20

ACWS Shelter Workforce Survey 2019-2020 – Fact Sheet


Background: ACWS has administered six surveys on shelter operations, funding, staff compensation and working conditions across Alberta’s women’s shelters since 2002. Twenty-four member organizations participated in the 2020 Shelter Workforce Survey, consisting of 29 shelters and 712 employees. The report compiles and analyzes domestic violence shelter data to provide insight into shelter operations, funding, staff compensation and working conditions, and provides recommendations for both the domestic violence sector and to support women in the broader workforce.

The 2019-20 ACWS Workforce Survey is a confidential report, which is available to ACWS members. A public-facing summary is available on the ACWS website, and key points from the report are highlighted in the one-page fact sheet that accompanies this media release.

Six Canadian provinces–Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, and Quebec–have enacted specific pay equity legislation. Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and British Columbia have not enacted pay equity laws but have developed policy frameworks for negotiating pay equity with some specific public sector employees. Only Alberta has neither passed pay equity legislation nor developed a pay equity negotiation framework.[5]



Media Contact:
Olivia Street, Coordinator of Communications and Social Advocacy
(780) 566-3091


[1] The Canadian Press, February 4, 2021. “First raises under soon-to-be-enacted pay equity legislation should happen by 2024, watchdog says.”

[2] [3] [4]  Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, 2021. ACWS Shelter Workforce Survey 2019-20.

[5] Ontario Equal Pay Coalition. The Gender Pay Gap Across Canada.