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The Gender Pay Gap Is a Myth

A woman speaking in a meeting.

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.


It exists:

  • Because of systemic discrimination:
  • 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.


Argument: Women choose to structure their careers around having children so, again, the pay gap is actually their fault. 


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16 Responses to “The Gender Pay Gap Is a Myth”

  1. Avatar Emm Fickle says:

    According to this article, 10% to 15% of the gender pay gap is attributable to gender discrimination. Which means that between 85% and 90% of the pay gap is due to reasons other than the worker being a woman. That is the real point. The research does not support the claim that the substantive reason women get paid less is because they are women. Why not explore the 85% to 90%? If you want wage parity, it would seem the biggest gains could be made in understanding the other reasons.

    There are many reasons aside from gender that contribute to higher wages. Work that men typically engage in often falls into the 3 Ds category, dirty, dangerous and demeaning, and for those reasons, wages are higher. (Yes women sell sex and are employed as erotic dancers but these are not typical occupations). Men are much more likely to be injured or killed at work. Men travel away from their families working out of town or in camps. Men are more subject to physical violence on the job either from colleagues or ‘customers’.

    It would be really interesting to have an objective study on the topic.

    • Kate Hawkins Kate Hawkins says:

      Hi there, thanks for reading out blog. While 10 – 15% of the gender pay gap is directly attributable to gender discrimination, other factors that are outside of women’s control also contribute to this gap. The two largest factors explaining the remaining gender pay gap in 2018 were the distribution of women and men across industries, and women’s overrepresentation in part-time work, according to Statistics Canada. Almost two-thirds of the gender pay gap in 2018 was unexplained. Possible factors in this segment of the gap include gender differences in characteristics such as work experience and work interruptions, as well as gender-related biases or wage discrimination, or differences in pay negotiation.

      We have a helpful fact sheet on the gender pay gap available here if you’re looking for further info:

  2. Avatar nkrume says:

    Why does your article not take into account the number of hours worked? Isn’t that an important factor in determining wage discrimination?

  3. Avatar D. Advocate says:

    What is your position on individual men, factually, and not merely statistically, by means of a group average, being paid less then other men, for the very same job; sometimes even within the same company?
    What is your position on men being paid less the women, for the very same job?

    Both DOES happen and is as real as you claim your argument to be.

    Do you not see, that the pay gap, based on gender, is nothing more than a meme serving only one purpose: to divide those parts of the population how receive wages; this group consists of women, men and all the various other genders. It is in the interest of the group of individuals, which controls who receives wages and how much. This group, most likely, also consists of individuals of various genders.
    This is in line with the ancient principles of “divide et impera” and “qui bono”. Ancient but, quite demonstrably and obviously, quite effective and efficient still.
    Efficient, because for the investment of introducing a meme, the latter group has the “opponents” at each other’s throats, masking the true issues at play: equal pay for equal work for everybody – and more of it to start with.

    As long as we allow ourselves to be divided, nothing will change for any of us. As long as we do not object to political activists and demagogues, using and inventing myths and memes, to direct diffuse frustration, stir up dissent, to serve their own self-centered agenda, things will just continue as they have, for millennia. These activists and actors act for a reason and one reason only: to receive attention in a world in which the would otherwise drown in insignificance. Because, for the most part they are too incompetent in any field, which would actually benefit the groups they claim to support. Just talk – no substance.

    With a unified, compassionate workforce, women, men, and others alike, cooperating with and standing in for each other, instead of competing against each other, no wage paying organization nor any activist would be able to resist the change that is really required: higher wages, reflecting the true value of the effort delivered and adjusted annually, for true inflation of currency.

    As long as we seem to be unwilling or an able to overcome our own differences, within our group of wage-receiving individuals of all sexes, genders, races, beliefs, heritages and confessions, we will remain at the mercy of those who dictate wage structure and volume.

    It remains open to philosophical discussion, whether any member or the group as a whole would really be deserving of a unified and fair wage structure, as long as they are unable to overcome their own differences.

  4. Avatar Alex says:

    Where can I find the source information for your reasoning?
    Where can I find the relevant statistical data, which support your claims?

  5. Avatar Tony says:

    The data across the planet is overwhelmingly showing the data being presented by cherry picking biased groups are unfounded. The only way to make it look the way these groups want is to destroy a merit based system and mandate quotas. From first hand knowledge, this will never work and further divide societies. Interesting part of the argument that men don’t take time off for family also rest with the biased hold these groups have on the family courts. Further that makes this movement look bad is the idea that any male that speaks against them must be prosecuted and persecuted. One last point…by far a majority of men believe that woman deserve equal pay for equal work but you risk losing the support when you advocate attacking a man who advocated for higher pay versus a woman that didn’t and send the message that she doesn’t have to put in the effort. Something I never want my daughter to learn.

  6. Avatar Tiffany Dionne says:

    Harvard did a study and the most accurate possible study there was. Time cards, tenure, seniority. And they found the was no wage gap, or rather the wage gap was of women’s own doing.

    They find that male train and bus drivers worked about 83 percent more overtime than their female colleagues and were twice as likely to accept an overtime shift—which pays time-and-a-half—on short notice and that around twice as many women as men never took overtime. The male workers took 48 percent fewer unpaid hours off under the Family Medical Leave Act each year. Female workers were more likely to take less desirable routes if it meant working fewer nights, weekends, and holidays. Parenthood turns out to be an important factor. Fathers were more likely than childless men to want the extra cash from overtime, and mothers were more likely to want time off than childless women.

  7. Avatar Ann says:

    In the same sense it would be too convoluted to make the statement that “women are paid less than men” to this situation. The solution can’t be as simple as that yet showcase various ”realities” and not showcase the realities of all humans regardless of gender, sex or race. Don’t use men as the scapegoat in 2020. Humans are more complicated than men vs women. I’ve seen far more direct racism, sexism and bigotry in recent years in hypocritical contrasts despite arguments made. Practice what you preach.

  8. Avatar Frank says:

    Perhaps there is a pay gap but it’s definitely not the 75 cents to the dollar. It’s a flawed statistic that does not take into account the types of jobs and amount of hours worked. Men do most of the dangerous and harder labour jobs — truck driving, virtually all trades. If women want to narrow the pay gap they’re going to have to accept labour intensive and cut-up, greased stained sausage fingers.

  9. Avatar todd says:

    What I don’t like about this debate is that the “myth” side of the issue is supported by statistics and surveys. You can see the differences that choice, career, education, children, age, work hours, locale, and yes, even gender traits, all make. Not to mention the fundamental flaws in how the “averages” are calculated. Any job over X hours is used and the median number is used, most times. That is statistically about as unsound as it gets. It completely throws out all of the factors that actually do describe these sorts of variances. The “not a myth” argument consists of theories and opinions. There is no actual evidence. I don’t think it’s fair to act on what people “feel” to be the problem when that is so subjective and, typically, not universally accepted. Even among most women.

    I’ve seen many surveys that show that single women in urban areas aged 22-29 make more than men. There is a lot to consider there but it shows that there are definite factors that affect this. It is NOT an average at all. Even this very site describes a 25 cent gap between genders and then, later, notes that “even for women with no kids, the gap is 10 cents”. Even this organization can see, by it’s own admission, that there ARE factors that come into play. It’s not just one number for everybody.

    Now, do men make more overall, yes. Of course they do. There are lots of reasons why that is. I’m totally willing to have a discussion about that. But to blame chromosomes and use opinions and conspiracy theory to paint an oppressive picture is flatout wrong.

    • Stacey Rodas Stacey Rodas says:

      Hi Todd – Thanks for reading the post and writing to us!

      The gender pay gap exists to some extent in every country in the world. And you are absolutely correct that there is definitely nuance needed in discussions around the gap.

      Your point about the average stats not always reflecting everyone’s actual reality is important. Along that same line, we’d also add that the average stats don’t reflect the experiences of women who face multiple forms of discrimination:

      -Women with disabilities face a 46% pay gap
      -Indigenous women face a 35% pay gap
      -Racialized women face a 33% pay gap
      -Newcomer women face a 29% pay gap

      Essentially, the gender pay gap widens depending on who you are combined with your gender.

      Your point about young urban women in the 22-29 age range making more than men is valid – at the same time, it’s important to note that that is just a small slice of the population.

      Also, it is likely that girls experienced pay disparity well before they reached that 22-29 age range, and thus may not be going into that part of their life having already made less than their male counterparts: A recent study showed girls in Canada received an average of $3 less per hour than boys for full-time summer jobs.

      Another issue comes during and/or after that 22-29 age range: The gender pay gap means that student debt most affects female post-grads. Part of it has to do with the gap itself, and another part has to do with not being able to repay schooling debt during maternity leave: Despite progress, women are still taking on the bulk of the housework and childcare in their partnerships – women are much more likely to take significantly more time than new fathers in order to care for a newborn with fewer than half of fathers taking all the paternity leave on offer after childbirth. So in the long run, women are disadvantaged further financially in that way.

      Women generally have a longer life expectancy, so the effect of even a small gender pay gap when compounded over a lifespan can be detrimental.

      Again, there is so much nuance in this discussion, especially as we look at the gender pay gap over a lifetime.

      Thank you for taking the time to have a productive discussion on this. It’s absolutely critical that we talk to each other about topics like this. I hope you will continue to read our pieces and engage with us. Cheers Todd, -Canadian Women’s Foundation

  10. Avatar Kevin says:

    Women who work the same amount of hours in the same job make the same amount of money. Over their lifetime they make less on average because many women choose careers that pay less than careers chosen by many men and they choose to work less hours so that they could spent more time with their children. Read The Myth of Male Power by D.r Warren farrell or books by Jordan Peterson and you will find the evidence about how women getting 75% of the pay of men is a myth.

  11. Avatar Janet Hudgins says:

    But, this exists at all because men have established the discrimination years ago, when men left business administration and women were hired to take their place. They realized they could relegate women as less capable, responsible, and patronize them. For that they could pay considerably less, 1/3 – 1/2 of what they paid men (and for less work than they had women do because women were much better at it), and take the remainder as profit. In other words, they manipulated women into subsidizing business and as long as no other men who were in official positions did nothing to stop that it has carried on through a couple of centuries with little improvement as the same users, opportunists, are both in business and making laws in the 21st C. And they are equally culpable.

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