Gender Pay Gap In Canada Decreases

Canada’s data agency released a fitting report in time for International Women’s Day: for every dollar a man makes, women earn over $0.10 less.

Canada is full of nerds. When Statistics Canada (Stats Can) released their long-form census for the first time in over a decade last year, Canadians were so excited to fill out the information they crashed the data agency’s website. Now the numbers are rolling in for 2015, resulting in an update to the pay gap between Canuck men and women.

The findings are taken from Women and Paid Work, a chapter of Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report released by Stats Can in time to celebrate International Women’s Day. Focused on people aged 25 to 52, the report provides sweeping summaries of the Canadian labor market with some minimal exploration of its development compared to the past few decades.

Since WWII, the labor force participation of women in Canada has increased dramatically, while the participation of men has fallen. However, Stats Can notes that women continue to have a higher level of unemployment: in 2015, 85.3% of men were employed versus 77.5% of women. Women were also more likely than men to work part-time jobs, with Stats Can claiming that this was directly related to child care. It translates to women working 5.6 fewer hours per week than men, at 35.5 hours versus 41.1 hours.

Women who did work full-time were more likely than their male colleagues to be interrupted. 30% of women and only 23.9% of men were away from work sometimes during the labor force survey week, with 38.4% of women being absent for more than a week as opposed to the 24.8% of men. The reason for these absences were quite different. Women were more likely to cite involuntary reasons like illness, disability, personal or family reason (i.e. maternity leave) at 47.9%, whereas 27.6% of men were more likely to be away from work for other reasons, such as vacations.

And then comes the one statistic everyone will argue about for the next year, if not the next decade. Stats Can reported that in 2015, women earned an average of $26.11 per hour, while men earned an average of $29.86. That translates to a corresponding wage ratio of 0.87, meaning women earn an average of $0.87 for every dollar earned by a man. Stats Can notes that the difference between wages may result from the trend of women being employed in low-paying occupations.

Over half of women surveyed were employed in what is viewed as traditionally female roles. 56.1% of women reported being in teaching, nursing and related health occupations, social work, clerical and administrative roles, along with sales and related service. Only 17.1% of men claimed the same. As noted in the report, this reflects similar results from 1987, when 59.2% of women and 15.7% of men were employed in traditionally female occupations.

Let’s get this out of the way: I’m clearly biased. I have witnessed many women being treated unfairly based on their gender in the workplace, but I personally think there are more factors at play than just identified sex when it comes to the pay gap. Sarah Kaplan, the director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy at the University of Toronto, told CTV News some preliminary thoughts on that front.

“Some of it is about the jobs that people go into, but some of it is that we’re literally not valuing women’s contributions in exactly the same jobs,” she said. Kaplan also suggested that societal expectations for women, such as having flexible schedules for parental duties, often dissuades them from pursuing certain careers.

“If we make the higher-paid professions that are male-dominated unpleasant for women to work in, if we structure them in ways that make it hard for them to also take care of their family responsibilities, then they’re going to be less likely to go into those higher-paid professions,” Kaplan explained.It’s impossible to have a discussion about men and women’s salaries without discussing social obligations. There are even some theories in the report itself, discussing not only technological advances (i.e. electric appliances that lessen housework time), but social advances thanks to the women’s movement. These are key in the gender wage gap debate. It’s only fair that if a man works for 40 hours, he is paid for 40 hours, while the woman who works 35 is only paid for 35 hours. That’s completely fair. Unfortunately, there are certain expectations for women to be the primary child-caretakers and house cleaners. There are ridiculous articles floating around detailing why men should be helping out at home, none of which feature the most important point: they also fucking live there. Just like they’re also involved in parental obligations, yet there are some companies who still don’t offer paternity leave. And even among those that do, most of the time paternity leave is never as long as maternity leave; some reports even cite that it may be as little as half of what mothers get.

There are stigmas associated with a man being the primary caregiver still. As a feminist, this pisses me off so much. It’s examples like this that make me baffled and infuriated when people claim that men and women are already equal and we don’t need feminism anymore. In child custody cases, who is favored to receive primary custody in the eyes of the court? So, unfortunately, in the same vein, women are expected to care for the kids and handle household issues, which is linked to their fewer work hours, and as Kaplan suggests, discourages them from pursuing certain careers due to the lack of flexible hours. A woman may love and enjoy her job, but if she can’t be certain of hours and therefore when she can pick up/drop off her child at daycare, then she won’t be applying for the promotion that would garner her more money. Additionally, there are even reports of some companies frequently screening out women of ‘child-bearing age’ because they worry about having to give time off or flexible hours.

I think this also ties into the educational factor as well. I’m actually pretty frustrated about the focus on the simple gender gap and the lack of emphasis on how the education gap played into the final numbers. Stats Can noted that the gender wage ratio greatly improved with higher levels of education, but many media outlets completely ignored this in their coverage. Women with less than a high school diploma only made $0.74 for every dollar, compared to the $0.88 per dollar that female Bachelor degree holders made. Among those with a university degree above a Bachelor’s, women were earning $0.90 for every dollar earned by men.

Hearing that made me smile (and also consider going back to school, because why? I definitely need to be making more money). It was pretty exciting to hear that there are women out there almost at parity. Men outearn women in every occupational group (except for 2 out of the 46 surveyed), but with results like these, one can start to hope. Women remain outnumbered in occupations that require educations in science, technology, engineering, and math. Only 24.4% of the people employed in professional scientific jobs were women, while 75.6% were men. If anything, this demonstrates to me that more efforts need to be made to encourage women to further pursue their education in order to bridge the gender wage gap.

I’m not sure what those particular efforts would entail, but it appears that legislation works. As a direct result of equity legislation pertaining to public servants, gender parity exists in the public sector. 54.0% of legislators, senior government managers, and officials are women. In contrast, only 25.6% of senior managers in the private sector are women.

I find it both funny and strange that women are so underrepresented in management and higher paying sectors. The gender wage gap is largely a comparison between women and men in the same occupations; if women earned the same amount as men without occupations, their average wages would need to increase by around $2.86 per hour (if this happened, the wage ratio would reach $0.97 per hour for women). If women are so much cheaper, why aren’t companies stocking themselves full of women? Could this possibly be linked to social misconstructions of women’s skills and emotional unpredictability?

“We live in a racist and sexist society,” explains University of Lethbridge professor, Caroline Hodes, “...And Canadians seem unwilling to challenge the income gap.” That much is true. As interesting as these statistics are, Canada ranks far behind Scandinavian nations, New Zealand and even Rwanda on a variety of social indicators. Almost a decade ago, Germany looked at Canadian models in order to implement campaigns and programs to encourage women into their workforce, and now Germany boasts higher female employment involvement than Canada. There’s still plenty of discrimination in hiring and boardroom representation, but the German gap has become a third smaller over the past decade, while Canada is stalled, with women earning 27% less in the 2015 numbers.

Additionally, women in general are less likely to negotiate higher salaries, especially at higher managerial levels- women are paid on average $93,000 less. And at the chief executive level, women are earning almost $1 million less. But this can also be directly linked to gender discrimination. Women are routinely offered a lower base rate salary than men, and then get penalized when they try to negotiate. Researchers at Harvard found that when women attempted to negotiate salaries and conditions, they were not only shut down sooner but later viewed during the crucial hiring process as “not team players.” On the other hand, men who negotiated were later perceived as “bold leaders” by the interviewers.

Of course, that’s if women even make it to the interview stage. A combo study run by researchers at Harvard University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Cambridge found that when employers were given identical resumes except for female-sounding names versus male-sounding names, the male candidates were scrutinized less closely. Female resumes received comments like, “I’d want proof that she actually got this grant” and “Did she do this on her own?”

Yes, she did. But women are still fighting to prove that, along with fighting discrimination just because of their gender. The fact that we’re still discussing this is insanely exhausting. We need to better understand and educate ourselves on how to fight the stereotypes and stigmas that still exist about women in the workplace, and this can only be done with more research and details such as this study. We all need to start somewhere.

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