OPINION: Gender wage gap persists in Canada, statistics show

by | Mar 11, 2016 | Opinion

Amy Wallace

Women are embracing higher education, earning medical and law degrees and often outnumbering men in postsecondary education. Visible minority women are among the most educated individuals in Canada, Statistics Canada has recently reported. This year marks the 100th anniversary of women’s first right to vote in Canada.

Who can forget Justin Trudeau’s “because it’s 2015” comment in reference to his half-female cabinet?

So the million-dollar question remains: why does the gender wage gap persist?

On the eve of International Women’s Day (last Monday), Oxfam Canada and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report that highlights the current state of the wage gap between men and women in Canada.

Simply put, it is only widening.

On average, women working full-time and year around in Canada earn 72 per cent of what their male counterparts earn. This wage gap has increased, as it stood at 74.4 per cent in 2009.

According to a new report from Statistics Canada, women working full-time in Canada make 73.5 cents for every dollar made by men.

The statistics do not paint an encouraging picture. The gender wage gap in Canada is alive and well, and little progress has been made in regards to this age-old issue.

Celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Watson have voiced their opinions on the gender pay gap in Hollywood. Both agreed that speaking out about money would label them as ‘difficult’, or a ‘diva.’

Is that the problem, that women are not bold enough? Do women possess less of a desire to compete and ultimately accept less?

Part of the problem, the Oxfam report points out, is that women are still working in occupations that tend to earn lower wages. Much of the career paths that women hold mirror those duties that women have traditionally performed in the household.

The report cites the example of truck drivers (97 per cent of whom are male), who earn a median annual wage of $45,417 working full time. Meanwhile, early childhood educators (the same percentage of whom are female) make a median annual wage of $25,334.

These numbers are most troubling to me.

I find it difficult to wrap my head around. No college degree is required to become a truck driver but an appropriate driver’s license is required. For early childhood educators a bachelor’s degree or college diploma is required. One can only ask why the latter profession is seemingly undervalued when it requires more training and education?

Truck driving is a big responsibility, it involves lots of time spent away from home and less than ideal living conditions. Yet so is early childhood education, as early child care is vital to development and those working in this field set the foundation for future learning. So why should one hold more “value” than the other?

Harvard University economics professor Claudia Goldin presents an interesting hypothesis to the wage gap issue. She says that the gap is largest in professions such as business and law, which typically involve longer work hours, and consequently a greater increase in earnings. As children enter the picture women may start to prioritize “temporal flexibility” over pay. For those who want fewer hours and more flexible schedules in certain occupations, penalties arise.

“Quite simply the gap exists because hours of work in many occupations are worth more when given at particular moments and when the hours are more continuous. That is, in many occupations earnings have a nonlinear relationship with respect to hours. A flexible schedule often comes at a high price, particularly in the corporate, financial, and legal worlds,” she writes.

According to a new report from The Criminal Lawyers’ Association (CLA), women are quitting their jobs as criminal lawyers at a rate that is significantly higher than men. Unpredictability of the workday and lack of financial support for maternity leave are among the common reasons provided.

There are theories as to how we got here, yet there is no rationale for why we should stay here. Goldin’s theory is a sensible one, yet suggests that women have brought it upon themselves by wanting the best of both worlds. On the one hand they want to stay home to raise a family, but they also want to succeed in their careers and receive equal pay.

There are no legitimate reasons for pay inequality.

According to the World Economic Forum, the global economic pay gap will not be closed until 2133.

Surely we have to do something before then, as I would like to see some progress in my lifetime. I’m sure others would agree.

After all, it’s 2016.