Peter Tabuns MPP, Toronto-Danforth

Government of Ontario

Ontario’s Sunshine List Shows Women Make Up Just 25 Per Cent of the Top 100 Best-Paid Public Servants

Published on April 3, 2017

By Ashley Csanady and Monika Warzecha

Just a quarter of the 100 best-paid public servants in Ontario are women, according to the annual Sunshine List.

The document, released Friday, shows that women still lag behind men even amid the highest earners on the public dime. And, not much has changed in recent years despite a concerted push by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government to tackle pay equity in the private and public sectors. The annual list details everyone member of the broader public service earning $100,000 a year or more.

In 2016, 25 of the top 100 earners on the list were women, based on a National Post analysis of the salary and taxable benefits. In 2015, it was 24. In 2014, it was 21.

“The Liberals have been in now for 14 years and, in almost a decade and a half, you’d think you’d make some progress in promoting equality. It seems to be awfully slow,” said New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns.

“This is an issue on people’s mind. It’s a big issue on women’s minds,” Tabuns said. “If you’re in touch with where the population is at you’re going to be trying to close this gap.”


There has been some progress since the annual Sunshine List first published the salaries of the top earners from 1996. In that year, just ten women made the top 100. That number doubled by 2010 to 20 then dipped to 17 in 2011, creeping up to 22 in 2012 and falling back to 21 in 2013.

So 25 women in 2017 is both the best performance for women yet, and still a far cry from the gender wage equity the government is seeking. Last year, the province released a gender wage gap strategy that found that women make between 14 and 26 cents less in Ontario for every dollar a man earns.

“Obviously this shows we still have a long way to go to reach parity, even in the public sector. It’s not just a private sector issue,” said Laurie Scott, the Ontario PCs critic for women’s issues, in an email.

And that analysis and the government’s own data show that overall, women tend to do better in the public sector than the private sector. The wage gap is smaller and government policies facilitate their advancement more readily than some private sector companies.

“We have implemented pay equity plans, and this year the difference between the average salary of men and women in the Ontario Public Service (OPS) was 12.5 per cent, down from 15.8 per cent in 2006,” a spokesperson for Treasury Board President Liz Sandals said in an email. “Women also make up 55 per cent of middle management and non-bargaining specialist positions and approximately 52 per cent of the OPS senior management group.

“While it’s encouraging to see progress, we know that there’s more work to be done.”

The treasury board spokesperson also said the gender wage gap on the Sunshine List is also symptomatic of lingering gender roles in certain careers paths that tend to appear more often on the list.

“There are a variety of factors that may contribute to the gender representation of the Sunshine List,” the spokesperson said. “In the OPS, there is a lower proportion of women in the engineering field, in information technology and in police (and) law enforcement, which typically are higher-paying positions.

Even among the heads of ministries and departments directly under the purview of the government and the legislature — those who work directly for the government or the legislative assembly itself, such as deputy ministers or the clerk of the legislature — women continue to lag.

Of the 100 best-paid deputy ministers and other heads of government departments, just 29 were women in 2016. This is the one area of government where the premier and her Cabinet can directly appoint or promote women, and perhaps they have as in both 2015 and 2015, just 20 women were among the top 100.

While this analysis focuses on the top 100 earners overall and among those directly employed by government, the list also demonstrates how men with traditionally British or Biblical names appear the most often on the list. Michael, David, John, Robert and Paul are the five most common names on the list, in that order. Jennifer is the most common female name on the list and it’s the twelfth most common overall.

A note on the analysis: The National Post analyzed the top 100 highest-paid members of the 2015 sunshine list. Seconded references were removed and genders were verified against online profiles. For the top 100 best paid direct Ontario Public Service employees, the National Post analyzed the legislative assembly and offices as well as the ministries.