I was really hoping the recent release of Census data would bring good news: wage gap closed! Racial discrimination gone! Equality achieved! Not so much. Gaps in pay for women and racialized groups persist. Ditto for immigrants and Indigenous peoples. Consider Toronto, Canada’s largest city and one of its most diverse. More than half of Toronto’s population are immigrants. Exactly 50 per cent of the city’s population identifies as a visible minority. Maybe in the next Census, Statistics Canada will swap “visible minority” for “racialized,” seeing as 50 per cent is not a minority.
This post was originally published on the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ blog Behind the Numbers.
The wage gap is pretty easy to understand. I do a job. You do a job. I get paid more. You get paid less. Unfair. Especially if you and I have the same training, work the same hours, and perform the same kind of tasks. And yet, the gender wage gap persists, right here in Canada, even when education, occupation, experience, and hours of work are considered. The gap is even bigger for Indigenous women, racialized women, immigrant women, and women with disabilities.
Symbols count. They are a powerful force in the slow contest to change attitudes and expectations. When the newly elected liberal government announced they would have equal numbers of women and men in Cabinet, it reset the world of the possible for women in politics in Canada.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tells a story that illustrates this point. When her daughter remarked on the historic nature of Albright’s appointment, Albright’s granddaughter responded, “So what's the big deal about Grandma Maddy having been Secretary of State? Only girls are Secretaries of State.” Which had been true in the course of her young life. Those appointments shaped her view (and that of her peers) of the world of the possible.