Equal Pay Day? - Because it’s 2016!

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This year, the Equal Pay Coalition cites April 19 as Equal Pay Day to demonstrate that women must work the equivalent of 15.5 months to earn the same average salary of every man. Women earn less than men in just about every part of the globe. Sexism is one reason. But there are many other variables to consider. Some researchers have noticed women who hold the same education levels as men seem to work less hours than men.

Despite all the gains the women’s movement has made over the past 50 years, the pay gap between men and women is still very large. While estimates vary, the Globe and Mail found that Canadian women may earn as little as 69 cents compared to every dollar a man makes.

Why is there such a big difference between amount of money men and women earn? In a legal framework, women are fully equal to men in the eyes of the law. It is illegal for an employer to refuse to hire, discipline, terminate, deny training, demote, fail to promote or harass someone on the basis of their gender.

Men’s attitudes towards working women has changed considerably over the last 80 years. In a poll conducted in Canada in 2010, 80% did not agree with the statement “a women’s place is in the home.” Back in 1936, only 18% disagreed with this statement. In 1967, it was 56%. Women have also made up the majority of students in Canadian universities since 1991. In 1971, women made up only 32% of Canadian university students.

The more education a woman has, the smaller the pay gap. The pay gap for women who are enrolled in professional careers is much smaller in comparison to men and women who hold non-professional or “blue collar” occupations. BUT THERE IS STILL A GAP!

Age is also a factor. In Great Britain, there is very small wage gap between men and women under the age of 30. But things start to change once women get older. Women who begin to have children and start a family are more likely to work in a job that has less hours and more flexible hours. A highly qualified doctor, after having a child, will be more likely to start a family practice than work in the emergency ward in a downtown hospital. A highly qualified lawyer who works in the city’s top corporate law firm who works 90 hour weeks will be more likely to find a job at a company and serve as their in-house counsel.

A group of students at Ryerson University conducted a study to see if there is a difference between the number of hours worked between men and women. Data was pulled from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey, which was published in December 2015. The research team compared the number of hours worked between 31,000 men and 29,000 women. The researchers discovered men on average worked six hours more than women do in a week. Men worked 39 hours compared to women who worked only 33 hours. However this discrepancy in hours based on gender cannot always be attributed to choice – in some cases a full-time or 40 hour/week job is simply not an available option.

The findings in this project sheds some light on our understanding of the wage gap between men and women. Given that we have found that men on average work over 6 hours more per week than women (by choice or not), it may not be surprising that men, on average, also earn more than women. However, further research into why women work less than men would be insightful.

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