Premier Wynne has mandated the Minister of Labour to determine actions that will reduce the wage gap between men and women, which has stayed stubbornly high at around 30%. In the public sector this figure is slightly lower but not by much.
This is very disappointing as the Pay Equity Act (PEA) introduced in the early 1990’s was supposed to have fixed this problem by now. It is clear to me that given the gap that still exists, the PEA has failed to achieve the equity it sought. I hope the Minister considers the root causes of this inequity. There are a few in my view.
One that has not been discussed as much as other root causes or studied as thoroughly is the way in which wages originated for men and for real or perceived women dominated workplaces. Men have always been active in paid economic activities; their value has grown within this context. Women’s work on the other hand originated mostly in the home or in charitable organizations such as religious orders where there was either no pay or very little. When some of these jobs became paid, the bias continued. Why pay a lot of money for work that was free? The end result is that work of similar value came at a discount and this has not been dealt with.
This bias is also contained in job evaluation tools. Most job evaluation plans do not consider job factors in the same way. For example, we all recognize that police officers and fire fighters have considerable danger inherent in their job and are compensated for it. Health care workers on the other hand are not seen to have a dangerous job. Yet, as we see all too often today, they are exposed to dangerous infectious diseases and some have paid with their lives as we saw in the SARS epidemic. The factors recognizing working conditions don’t really recognize this reality. As such the tools to fix these inequities contain structural bias against women dominated work.
To be sure there are other causes that need to be examined (*some discussed in my previous blog “What is Holding Back Women’s Wage Equity” which can be viewed on our website) but until we acknowledge and eliminate the structural bias against female dominated jobs the equity gap will remain high.
Angelo Pesce Principal Consultant