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Bridging the wage gap

In 1987, when the Pay Equity Act was passed, Canadian women were making between 64¢-74¢ on average to every $1 made by men. While the wage gap has narrowed dramatically since then, that process has slowed in recent years.  From a global standpoint, the World Economic Forum ranked Canada only 16th overall in pay equity in 2017. Even now in 2019, women are only making 84¢ to every $1 made by men.

Even though the pay gap is still an issue in Canada, research shows there are greater numbers of women entering previously male-dominated fields, that companies are course-correcting when audits or leaks indicate there’s a pay disparity, and that in some fields, pay between employees of all genders is already at par.

 

Underlying reasons for the wage gap

The reasons behind the wage gap are more complex than employers simply failing to provide equal pay for equal work. Studies show the wage gap can be affected by several issues, including:

  • Employer discrimination: including deliberate or unconscious favouritism on the part of the hiring managers or entrance committees. An audit study from 2018 “found that high-achieving men are called back more frequently by employers than equally high-achieving women (at a rate of nearly 2-to-1).” Women are also being passed over for school or training programs in male-dominated fields, and in some cases, being harassed (sometimes sexually) out of the field if they’re able to secure a position.
  • Family / caregiving duties: leaving early, arriving late, or using up sick/vacation time to care for family means less earnings for women paid in hourly wages. In addition to everyday care, taking time off to have a baby can result in a loss of opportunities and seniority.
  • Occupational segregation: studies show that the invisible domestic and emotional labor that women are expected to perform negatively affects the perception of traditionally female-coded jobs (administration, service, teaching, etc.). These jobs are generally valued less—both monetarily and in prestige—than male-coded jobs (STEM work, finance, law enforcement, etc.) 

Women are under-represented in leadership roles: while unprecedented numbers of women have taken on mentorship and advocacy roles, created professional organizations and empowerment initiatives to guide women looking to advance, there’s always room for more.

 

Canada has your back

To work toward closing the gender pay gap, Canada introduced the The Pay Equity Act in 1987. The act mandates fair and equitable pay for women, and “puts the onus on employers to establish and maintain compensation practices that provide for pay equity by comparing female job classes and male job classes and adjusting the job rates of female job classes so that they are at least equal to the job rates of comparable male job classes based on skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions.”

The Pay Equity Office continues to monitor the gap, and they report that it is slowly narrowing. In the meantime, here are some ways you can empower yourself:

 

Tips to help close the wage gap

 

  • Ask for your worth: When applying for a job, research the average pay for that position in your city and at your experience level.

 

  • Talk to colleagues and friends: Find a mentor, become a mentor where you can, and get insights from friends—the next time you’re catching up with former co-workers or pals in similar industries, learn about their experiences with salaries, and gather information to help fill in the blanks. 
  • Apply anyway: An internal survey of employees at HP revealed that women only applied for a promotion if they had 100% of the required qualifications. Men were willing to apply with only 60%. 
  • Own your awesome: When preparing to ask for a raise, take stock of what you actually do at work, and note the situations where you go above and beyond what is expected of your role. Collect commendations from coworkers and customers. Ask for a raise at the right time of year (avoiding historically busy times), ask for an in-person interview, and focus on why you deserve the raise.

 

The future of equal pay

The existence of the gendered wage gap is not just a simple case of women getting paid less for the same work. The domestic duties women are expected to perform outside of work affect their earning ability, the fields in which women work in large numbers are undervalued, and unconscious hiring/training biases are keeping women out of higher paid, higher prestige roles. A lower earning level also means that women—on top of earning less overall—are more likely to be dependent on welfare programs, housing subsidies, food-banks, and other government-funded support programs.

If we can close the gender pay gap completely, it could add an extra $420 billion to the Canadian economy, free up subsidy funding, and make life better for everyone.

stnce is a movement that encourages women to confidently take ownership of their finances. We do this by fostering an easily accessible resource hub, and actively engaging our community. We believe everyone benefits when women are self-reliant, self-assured, and well-informed about their financial affairs. Sign up to unlock exclusive content at stnce.ca.

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