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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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5 responses to “The Gender Pay Gap Is a Myth”

  1. Avatar Frank says:

    Perhaps there is a pay gap but it’s definitely not the 75 cents to the dollar. It’s a flawed statistic that does not take into account the types of jobs and amount of hours worked. Men do most of the dangerous and harder labour jobs — truck driving, virtually all trades. If women want to narrow the pay gap they’re going to have to accept labour intensive and cut-up, greased stained sausage fingers.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSvLnlX-VG4

  2. Avatar todd says:

    What I don’t like about this debate is that the “myth” side of the issue is supported by statistics and surveys. You can see the differences that choice, career, education, children, age, work hours, locale, and yes, even gender traits, all make. Not to mention the fundamental flaws in how the “averages” are calculated. Any job over X hours is used and the median number is used, most times. That is statistically about as unsound as it gets. It completely throws out all of the factors that actually do describe these sorts of variances. The “not a myth” argument consists of theories and opinions. There is no actual evidence. I don’t think it’s fair to act on what people “feel” to be the problem when that is so subjective and, typically, not universally accepted. Even among most women.

    I’ve seen many surveys that show that single women in urban areas aged 22-29 make more than men. There is a lot to consider there but it shows that there are definite factors that affect this. It is NOT an average at all. Even this very site describes a 25 cent gap between genders and then, later, notes that “even for women with no kids, the gap is 10 cents”. Even this organization can see, by it’s own admission, that there ARE factors that come into play. It’s not just one number for everybody.

    Now, do men make more overall, yes. Of course they do. There are lots of reasons why that is. I’m totally willing to have a discussion about that. But to blame chromosomes and use opinions and conspiracy theory to paint an oppressive picture is flatout wrong.

    • Stacey Rodas Stacey Rodas says:

      Hi Todd – Thanks for reading the post and writing to us!

      The gender pay gap exists to some extent in every country in the world. And you are absolutely correct that there is definitely nuance needed in discussions around the gap.

      Your point about the average stats not always reflecting everyone’s actual reality is important. Along that same line, we’d also add that the average stats don’t reflect the experiences of women who face multiple forms of discrimination:

      -Women with disabilities face a 46% pay gap
      -Indigenous women face a 35% pay gap
      -Racialized women face a 33% pay gap
      -Newcomer women face a 29% pay gap

      Essentially, the gender pay gap widens depending on who you are combined with your gender.

      Your point about young urban women in the 22-29 age range making more than men is valid – at the same time, it’s important to note that that is just a small slice of the population.

      Also, it is likely that girls experienced pay disparity well before they reached that 22-29 age range, and thus may not be going into that part of their life having already made less than their male counterparts: A recent study showed girls in Canada received an average of $3 less per hour than boys for full-time summer jobs.

      Another issue comes during and/or after that 22-29 age range: The gender pay gap means that student debt most affects female post-grads. Part of it has to do with the gap itself, and another part has to do with not being able to repay schooling debt during maternity leave: Despite progress, women are still taking on the bulk of the housework and childcare in their partnerships – women are much more likely to take significantly more time than new fathers in order to care for a newborn with fewer than half of fathers taking all the paternity leave on offer after childbirth. So in the long run, women are disadvantaged further financially in that way.

      Women generally have a longer life expectancy, so the effect of even a small gender pay gap when compounded over a lifespan can be detrimental.

      Again, there is so much nuance in this discussion, especially as we look at the gender pay gap over a lifetime.

      Thank you for taking the time to have a productive discussion on this. It’s absolutely critical that we talk to each other about topics like this. I hope you will continue to read our pieces and engage with us. Cheers Todd, -Canadian Women’s Foundation

  3. Avatar Kevin says:

    Women who work the same amount of hours in the same job make the same amount of money. Over their lifetime they make less on average because many women choose careers that pay less than careers chosen by many men and they choose to work less hours so that they could spent more time with their children. Read The Myth of Male Power by D.r Warren farrell or books by Jordan Peterson and you will find the evidence about how women getting 75% of the pay of men is a myth.

  4. Avatar Janet Hudgins says:

    But, this exists at all because men have established the discrimination years ago, when men left business administration and women were hired to take their place. They realized they could relegate women as less capable, responsible, and patronize them. For that they could pay considerably less, 1/3 – 1/2 of what they paid men (and for less work than they had women do because women were much better at it), and take the remainder as profit. In other words, they manipulated women into subsidizing business and as long as no other men who were in official positions did nothing to stop that it has carried on through a couple of centuries with little improvement as the same users, opportunists, are both in business and making laws in the 21st C. And they are equally culpable.

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