It's Equal Pay Day in Ontario, But How Equal Is Pay Across Canada?

Canada may not have a national Equal Pay Day, but that isn't stopping us from taking a closer look into the wage gap and why we need to #StayNasty all year long

(Photo: iStock, Design: Leo Tapel)

(Photo: iStock, Design: Leo Tapel)

It’s Equal Pay Day in Ontario, but don’t let the name fool you, it’s not actually a time to celebrate achieving a level playing field.

The Pay Equity Act in Ontario, implemented way back in 1987, dictates that all companies must take action to ensure that men and women in the workforce are paid equally—but 30 years later, the law has not translated into reality. According to Ontario’s Equal Pay Coalition, women in the province earn 30 percent less than men. To put that stat in perspective, that means it would take the average woman 15.5 months to earn what her male counterpart makes in a year—and the gap only gets wider for minority groups, including those of different racial backgrounds, those with disabilities and immigrants.

Activists and the Equal Pay Coalition are calling for officials to take actual steps—like increasing minimum wage and making unions more accessible—to address the wage gap, which has stayed more-or-less consistent for nearly three decades.

“Women, particularly immigrant and racialized women, make up the vast majority of minimum wage earners. Women represent two-thirds of part-time workers,” Deena Ladd, Workers Action Centre co-ordinator, said in a statement. “By raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and proactive enforcement to end wage theft, the gender pay gap will start to close. These actions must be part of the government’s strategy to close the gap.”

Related: From Chatelaine: Report reveals how little Canadian women earn compared to men

While Ontario is raising its voice about the gender pay gap today, we don’t have a dedicated national day to draw attention to the ovary-infuriating discrepancy that still exists. Maybe that’s because it’s a discussion we need to have year-round until we start seeing some *actual* action.

And while it’s great that our PM has drawn more attention to this issue and still regularly calls for gender equality, to use his own words, from a statement he made this past International Women’s Day, “more work needs to be done.”

Case in point: Statistics Canada recently released a “Women in Canada: Women and Paid Work” study, and it essentially outlined all the reasons we need to stay #nasty.

So next time someone says, “What more do women want?!” here’s some facts and figures that you can hit them with:

Women work for everyone

As the philosopher Beyoncé once famously stated, women are “strong enough to bear the children, then get back to business.” But taking care of the next generation can also set women back in the workforce. According to Stats Canada, women work fewer hours and experience more prolonged absences from work, often for reasons beyond their control, compared to men. Oh, and fun fact, women are more likely (47 percent) to take a leave from work for involuntary reasons that include parental leave or family issues, compared to men (27 percent). Meanwhile, dudes are more likely to be OOO for other reasons, like vacations.

Women are seriously underrepresented in STEM fields

Less than one quarter of the professional scientific community is comprised of women—and don’t be fooled, this issue is about more than just a disproportionate amount of women choosing arts over sciences. A U.S. study released earlier this year found that by age six, girls start to feel intellectually inferior to boys, and as a result are more likely to avoid subjects where you need to be “really, really smart.” So not only are girls taught to believe that science and math are for boys, but research also indicates that the industries themselves are viewed as “masculine”—giving women the sense that they don’t belong.

Related: What It’s Really Like to Be a Computer Scientist

Women are STILL paid less!

Despite the fact that the percentage of women in the workforce has quadrupled since the 1950s, the wages women earn are still stuck in the past. Women in Canada earn an average of 87 cents for every dollar earned by men. The ratio may vary depending on the industry and level of higher education, but it’s important—and infuriating—to note that at the time of the Stats Canada study, men out-earned women in every. single. occupation group.

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