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Why Equal Pay Day is Important

Apr 10th, 2018

Today is Equal Pay Day. The day symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. Today is April 10th.

It was only a couple of years ago that I began to understand the real difference between equal pay and the gender pay gap and the impact it has on me, on women’s equality and on future generations of women.

So if you’re curious to learn more and want the “Coles notes” please read on. We are going to take a quick look at:

  • What is the gender pay gap?
  • Understanding the numbers and how they are calculated in Ontario
  • Why it needs to be addressed
  • What causes the gap
  • What is being done about it in Ontario
  • What you can do it about it
  • How to understand if you’re being fairly paid in your workplace

What is the gender pay gap?

Equal pay is a legal requirement that male and female employees within an organization who are engaged in similar work or work of equal value must receive equal pay.

The gender pay gap is a broader measure of the difference in the average gross hourly earnings of male and female paid employees, as a percentage of the average gross hourly earnings of male paid employees. It is usually measured across the economy as a whole or an entire industry or occupation and is expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings.


Understanding the numbers in Ontario

The gender pay gap is typically measured in three ways:

  1. Average Annual Earnings: Compare the annual earnings (including contract and part-time work) by gender. That is to say, if you add up the earnings from all working women, that sum would be 31% less than the combined earnings of all working men. This measurement results in the largest wage gap because more women work part-time—and part-time workers earn less than full-time workers.
  2. Full-time, full-year average annual earnings. Compare the annual earnings of full-time workers. On this basis, women workers in Canada earned an average of 74 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2014. This is the most cited statistic in the wage gap debate.
  3. Hourly Wages. Compare the hourly wages by gender, including those for part-time workers. On this basis, women earned an average of 88 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2011.

Even after controlling for gender differences in industry, occupation, education, age, job tenure, province of residence, marital status, and union status, an 8% wage gap persists.

Any way that you measure it, in Ontario women are trailing behind men on pay.


Why does the gender pay gap need to be addressed?

The gender pay gap directly affects women’s economic empowerment. Lower annual earnings over the course of their lives impacts their economic stability, health, lifestyle and overall contribution to society. Read more here.


What causes the gender pay gap?

Contributing factors include:

  • Taking time out of the workforce (Motherhood penalty), resulting in a loss of seniority, advancement opportunities and wages.
  • Lack of access to affordable child care
  • Employer discrimination and bias through hiring, promotion and compensation.
  • Segregation of women into lower paid work job classes. Historically there is a higher concentration of women in careers that are undervalued and low-paying jobs, such as childcare and clerical work.
  • Formal education levels (though this has changed as women are graduating university in higher rates then men)
  • Under employment of women. There are a higher percentage of women working in part-time roles (resulting in lower wages)


What is being done about it in Ontario?

The full history of pay equity in Ontario can be found here. Ontario legislation has actually been used globally as a benchmark since the introduction of the Pay Equity Act. Unfortunately, even though there are tools in place to measure, we have not progressed by the leaps and bounds that were once hoped for.

As of April 1st Ontario introduced the Pay Transparency Act. It is hoped that the increased transparency on pay will help to further close the gender pay gap.

Ontario’s Pay Equity Act (1987) requires that all public sector employers and all private sector employers with more than 10 employees achieve pay equity by eliminating sex-based wage discrimination and by continuing to maintain discrimination-free wages into the future.

The Pay Transparency Act (2018) requires employers to disclose their wages to prove they are complying with their existing legal obligations under Ontario’s Human Rights Code and the Pay Equity Act. 


What can I do about it?

Awareness of the issue is key. To know it exists and to understand the impact of it in your life and for future generations will be key to driving change. This argument goes beyond equal pay for equal work to ensuring that women of the future gain equality in society.

MacLean’s recently produced a video from Canadian women talking about the gender pay gap. I personally was oblivious to it until only a couple of years ago (10+ years into my career).


How can you find out if you are being fairly paid?

Start talking about it – talk to your colleagues and friends. I know this may feel uncomfortable but how else are you going to know! Hopefully this will get easier with the new Pay Transparency Act. Maybe you can ask for a salary range vs specific numbers. The Act is designed to make finding out this information easier and to group roles in to classes with salary bands for easier comparison.

You can also check sources like Glassdoor or the Sunshine List.

If you are being unfairly paid remember to approach your employer armed with concrete documentation and solutions! Here is a link to an article that outlines your legal rights in more detail.

As always, we would love to hear your thoughts, please comment in our Facebook group or below!

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