Gender pay gap deniers come out in droves on Equal Pay Day, telling us that it’s all just a big myth.
If it’s illegal in Canada to pay women less than men, the argument goes, then the gender pay gap can’t be real.
We wish it were that simple.
Argument: In Canada, it’s illegal to pay women less than men. So the gender pay gap is a myth.
- Canada’s Human Rights Act does prohibit gender discrimination in pay.
- Statistics Canada data shows a gender pay gap still exists:
- On average, women working full time, full year earn 75 cents for every dollar earned by men. That’s a 25 per cent gender pay gap.
- The gap is wider than 25 per cent for women who face multiple forms of discrimination, including Indigenous women, women with disabilities, newcomer women, and racialized women.
Argument: The only reason the gender pay gap exists is because of women’s personal choices.
- Because of systemic discrimination:
- An estimated 10 to 15 per cent of the pay gap is due to gender-based discrimination.
- Discrimination based on gender, race, sexual orientation, and/or disability can happen in pay, recruitment, and access to career-building connections and mentorship. It’s especially bad in industries with an ‘old boys’ club’ mentality.
- It doesn’t always happen on purpose: Unconscious biases mean that we may not even be aware of prejudices that shape our decisions.
- Because unequal distribution of unpaid work means women do more caregiving and have more household responsibilities that add to the gender pay gap. Men are less likely to take caregiving breaks for children or elderly relatives, so they often stay in the workforce continually. Caregiver absences for women mean they don’t get as many promotions and salary increases. Plus, their pay drops when they come back to work: those aged 25 to 38 saw their earnings drop four per cent in the five years after having a child.
- Because women make up the majority of Canada’s minimum-wage workers. They work part-time for several reasons: lack of affordable childcare, family leave policies, and pressure to take care of everything at home.
- Because “women’s work” pays less than “men’s work.” What women do outside the home can look like what they do at home and, somehow, they’re expected to do it for little or no money. When women make up a large percentage of a specific industry, wages actually go down.
- Because women face barriers in many higher-paying fields. For example, the leaky pipeline happens when women join male-dominated industries and then feel pushed out because of the culture.
Argument: Women choose not to go into higher-paying industries and positions, so this gap is actually their fault.
- The gap persists in higher paying industries. In Ontario, there’s a significant gap between what men and women earn in every industry and occupation. Men in “trades, transportation and equipment operator” fields earn much more than women in the same field.
- Even women CEOs are paid almost a million dollars less than men CEOs.
- Women have higher levels of education and still make less than men on average.
Argument: Women choose to structure their careers around having children so, again, the pay gap is actually their fault.
- Even women without children make 10 per cent less than men.
- Canada doesn’t have universal affordable and accessible childcare, so many women can’t work full time.
- There’s a motherhood penalty and a fatherhood bonus.
- Men and women aged 25 to 54 work roughly the same number of hours per day, but women spend an average of 5 more hours per day on unpaid labour than men.
- Help close the gender pay gap by sending this letter to your MPP in English or French.
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- We discuss how women in the workforce have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic on our new podcast. Listen on Spotify or here.
- The Facts: The Gender Pay Gap in Canada
- Three Bold Steps Toward Closing the Gender Pay Gap
- What’s Needed Next for Pay Equity in New Brunswick: Private Sector Legislation.