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The Gender Pay Gap Is a Myth

A woman speaking in a meeting.

Gender pay gap deniers come out in droves on Equal Pay Day, telling us that it’s all just a big myth.

If it’s illegal in Canada to pay women less than men, the argument goes, then the gender pay gap can’t be real.

We wish it were that simple.

Argument: In Canada, it’s illegal to pay women less than men. So the gender pay gap is a myth.

Reality:

  • Canada’s Human Rights Act does prohibit gender discrimination in pay.
  • Statistics Canada data shows a gender pay gap still exists:
    • On average, women working full time, full year earn 75 cents for every dollar earned by men. That’s a 25 per cent gender pay gap.
    • The gap is wider than 25 per cent for women who face multiple forms of discrimination, including Indigenous women, women with disabilities, newcomer women, and racialized women.

Argument: The only reason the gender pay gap exists is because of women’s personal choices.

Reality:

It exists:

  • Because of systemic discrimination:
  • Because unequal distribution of unpaid work means women do more caregiving and have more household responsibilities that add to the gender pay gap. Men are less likely to take caregiving breaks for children or elderly relatives, so they often stay in the workforce continually. Caregiver absences for women mean they don’t get as many promotions and salary increases. Plus, their pay drops when they come back to work: those aged 25 to 38 saw their earnings drop four per cent in the five years after having a child.
  • Because women make up the majority of Canada’s minimum-wage workers. They work part-time for several reasons: lack of affordable childcare, family leave policies, and pressure to take care of everything at home.
  • Because “women’s work” pays less than “men’s work.” What women do outside the home can look like what they do at home and, somehow, they’re expected to do it for little or no money. When women make up a large percentage of a specific industry, wages actually go down.
  • Because women face barriers in many higher-paying fields. For example, the leaky pipeline happens when women join male-dominated industries and then feel pushed out because of the culture.

Argument: Women choose not to go into higher-paying industries and positions, so this gap is actually their fault.

Reality:

Argument: Women choose to structure their careers around having children so, again, the pay gap is actually their fault. 

Reality:

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