Anecdotally, it seems that we’re a lot closer to gender equality than we were in the 70s, 80s and even the 90s.
After all, we see more women in prominent positions in the business world, in politics and in education.
But according to a new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, we still have a long way to go.
In the report, titled A Growing Concern, the left-leaning think-tank claims that the gender pay gap — the difference between what men and women make in average annual salary — is actually growing.
"Last year, using average annual earnings of Ontario men and women, we reported that Ontario gender pay gap was 28 per cent — that, on average, women made 72 cents for every man’s dollar," notes the report, released on Tuesday.
"A year later, we find the gap has grown to 31.5 per cent — on average, women made 68.5 cents for every man’s dollar in 2011.
"In dollar terms: men’s average annual earnings increased by $200 — from $48,800 in 2010 to $49,000 in 2011 — but women’s average earnings decreased by $1,400 — from $35,000 in 2010 to $33,600 in 2011."
It’s a similar story across the country.
In 2011 (the most recent data is available) Canadian women earned on average $32,100, down from $32,600 in 2010. Meanwhile, the average Canadian male earned $48,100 in 2011, up from $47,800 in the previous year.
Why the gender pay gap exists has become an age-old debate in this country.
There is a school of thought that gender pay is a function of women’s behaviour. Statistics show that women traditionally choose lower-paying fields in the service or non-profit sectors.
And there’s a lot of literature out there about women making sacrifices — more so than men do — to raise a family, which invariably affects their earning potential.
But Mary Cornish, the report’s author, suggests that doesn’t explain why, even within the same occupational categories, women, on average, still earn less than men.
More importantly, Cornish says, it’s time to advance the discussion to how we value certain services in society.
"Historically … anything associated with being a women has historically been undervalued, which was the basis of the Pay Equity Act," she said.
As an example, Cornish cites the difference between what a government-funded female home care worker makes in Ontario versus a constable in the male-dominated Ontario Provincial Police Department. According to her figures, the former makes about $15 hour while the latter makes approximately $51 per hour.
"Is her work really one-third the value of [constable’s] work?" Cornish asks.
"That’s the kind of things we want to look at that. Are we asking women to do this work and assuming that it’s not as valuable?"
In the report, Cornish outlines a 10-step blueprint to close the gender gap in Ontario. She recommends things like increasing the minimum wage, expanded pay equity laws, affordable child care and a renewed focus by policy-makers to close the gender pay gap within government-funded bodies.
Unfortunately, the battle for gender equality continues.
The full study can be read here.
(Photo courtesy Reuters)