Same job, different pay?

I expect to earn equal pay for performing the same job as my male counterpart. I don’t think that’s an unfair request, do you? In 1963, the Equity Pay Act was established in the U.S. in order to protect against workplace discrimination based on sex, race, religion, ethnicity, disability etc..

As with other important changes made for gender equality within the last decades, the act was an attempt to mend salary differences between men and women. While the act has certainly helped, there still continues to be significant differences in annual salaries between the sexes. You may expect that a wage gap would persist in other countries around the world, but in Canada — really? Well, guess what: the gap in income between men and women in Canada is 21 per cent! Our country earns a less-than-stellar “C” grade and ties with Finland and the U.K. for 12th position.

Men are getting paid more than women and it is unfair, but the gender wage gap problem is slightly more complicated than this. Oftentimes women are paid significantly less for performing the same job as men. However, often the various statistics on the gender wage gap are attributed to differences in average annual pay between the sexes, due to education and experience, type of occupation held and number of hours worked. While the gap is certainly still a gender issue, society places women in positions where it is difficult to make the same amount of money as their male counterpart.

The first proposed reason for the gender wage gap is that women are said to have less education and work experience than men. While this may have been true years ago, women are certainly catching up and this should no longer be a reason for a gap in salaries. As with men, when a woman holds higher levels of education, her earnings will increase. However, while a highly educated woman may still make more money than a less educated woman, the gender wage gap appears to be at its highest with increased education levels. Therefore, a woman and man who both hold multiple degrees will have a larger gap in their salaries than a man and woman who both have little education.

Another possible explanation for the disparity between incomes is the type of work that women perform. Unfortunately, we live in a society where almost everything is gendered, including occupations. Women have traditionally held teaching and nurturing jobs, and because these jobs require stereotypically feminine skills, they are rated as less prestigious and therefore deserving of less pay than jobs requiring “masculine skills.” A simple solution to this problem would be for large numbers of women to move into male-dominated occupations. However, the concern is that if more and more women enter “male occupations,” there may be a tendency to value and reward those jobs less and less as well.

Finally, women generally earn less money than men because they are more likely than men to work part time. However, most wage gender comparisons exclusively focus on full-time, year-round workers. By comparing men and women who work 40 or more hours per week, one can see that the wage gap may actually increase. Women who work 41-44 hours per week earn 84.6 per cent of men’s wages in that time category, while women working more than 60 hours per week only earn 78.3 per cent of men’s wages. Furthermore, women often have to work longer to receive promotions that provide higher pay.

It is clear to see that the gender wage gap can partially be explained by education level, occupation type and hours worked. However, much of this reasoning doesn’t hold completely true and a great deal of the gender wage gap cannot be properly explained. The statistics often make the issue sound different than it really is — are women working for less money for the exact same job or are women earning less money on average than men for more complex reasons? The answer is probably a little of both. Regardless, the gender wage gap continues to be a relevant issue for Canada and for countries around the world.

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