Equal Pay for Equal Work: the truth about the wage gap

Upon reading the article, “Gender equality bake sale causes stir at Utah high school” it becomes clear that the awareness of the pay difference is something to be brought to the attention of the younger generation; but is the fix as simple as raising women’s salaries?

Across North America, the wages of women are on average 74-78 cents to the man’s dollar, depending on the country or province/state (Ontario’s Pay Equality Commission, 2014). Women consistently make up the majority of post-secondary graduates, and yet their wages are not reflective of this (Chamie, 2014). There are several factors that weigh into why this is the case, but two of the largest components that hinder women’s wages across the globe are racism and gender binaries.

The intersectionality of race, gender and age all interact together to create differing levels of wage inequality. Specifically race has shown to play a major role in affecting women’s wages, something that was noticeably missing in the bake sale awareness attempt. The gender pay gap affects women of all races but is far worse for women of colour. Women of Asian ethnicity show the smallest wage gap of 90 cents to a white man’s dollar, while women of Hispanic ethnicity have the largest wage gap at 54 cents to a white men’s dollar (“The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap”, 2015). In Canada, Native American women earn 59% of a white male’s salary (Covert et al, 2014), this sort of prejudice is stemmed from years of racism and colonization of the Native peoples of Canada.

Canadian colonialism was different in the sense that European settlers took over indigenous lands and created a predominantly white society. Prior to the settlers, men and women’s work was considered equally valuable because even though work was gendered, both relied heavily on each other’s contributions. It was not uncommon for women to hold positions of power within the indigenous community and maintain the respect of their male counterparts. If we analyze the role of colonialism in Canada, it becomes clear that indigenous communities were, in fact, far more progressive in regards to their approach on gender and politics. It was not until European culture became the primary mentality of the country that women’s contributions were seen as inferior and gender binaries began to flourish. This outlook has continued into the present day wage gap among many other sources of sexism in modern society (Matini, 2015). This systemic racism is not specific only to the Native women of Canada, but also the black and Hispanic women.

Black and Hispanic women are less likely to receive an education; they are less likely to graduate from high school and go to college (Hill, 2015). Because these women are entering the work world with limited access to education, employers are often able to reduce their pay grade without being held accountable for racism. This perpetuates the stereotype that women of colour are less intelligent and capable in a working environment.

Age also plays a role in women’s wages, as age increases the gap between men and women increases. At it’s largest, the gap at ages 55-64 is roughly 59% within the same ethnic group, meaning that white women would be likely to make 59% of what white men make, and Hispanic women would make 59% of what Hispanic men make (McInterff , 2015).   The rate at which women make money as they age compared to that of men might be attributed to the lack of advancement opportunities in a woman’s career. As men age, there is a social understanding that they gain wisdom whereas women are seen as less valuable and are therefore less likely to receive promotions (Innes, 2013).

A common response to the wage gap dispute is, “women take more time off for early child rearing”. This is in fact true, women tend to take more time off for maternity leave, and are more likely to take personal days off for their children then their male counterparts (McInterff, 2015). Although it’s shown that on average, the women of today have 1-2 children, meaning less than two years of maternity leave (McInterff, 2015). The average age at which women in Canada begin to have children is approximately 29 years old; if you look at the wage difference of men and women before the approximate age of childbearing years, there is still a gap of 10 to 20% (McInterff , 2015). This gap is between full-time working adults with no children and no maternity leaves.

Is the solution as simple as just raising women’s salaries? To truly resolve the issues underlying the gender age gap we must first address the racism, ageism and gender binaries that still exist in 2015.

Works Cited

Chamie, Joseph. “Women More Educated Than Men But Still Paid Less.” Women More Educated Than Men But Still Paid Less. Yale Global Online, 6 Mar. 2014. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.

Covert, Bryce, and Dylan Petrohilos. “The Gender Wage Gap Is A Chasm For Women Of Color, In One Chart.” ThinkProgress RSS. ThinkProgress, 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.

“Gender Equality Bake Sale Causes Stir at Utah High School.” Good4Utah. N.p., 17 Mar. 2015. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.

“Gender Wage Gap.” Ontario’s Pay Equality Commission. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 April 2015.

Hill, Catherine. “How Does Race Affect the Gender Wage Gap?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 4 Apr. 2014. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.

Innes, Emma. “Wisdom Really Does Come with Age?” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 25 Sept. 2013. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.

Matini, Maria-Teresa. “Colonialism and Slavery.” Queen’s University, Kingston. 2 April 2015. Tutorial.

McInterff, Kate. “All Your Wage Gap Questions Answered.” Behind the Numbers RSS. Behind the Numbers, 26 Feb. 2015. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.

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4 thoughts on “Equal Pay for Equal Work: the truth about the wage gap

  1. The gender wage gap often seems to bunch all women together despite their race. It is often stated that women make a lot less than men, however what is not often spoken about is how women of different races have different wage gaps. Your post does speak about this issue which I find very refreshing. You mention how the colonialism of Native Canadian women is still present in the gender wage gap. What do you think has to be done to break down the colonialism Native Canadian women experience? You state that Asian women have the smallest wage gap as compared to white men. Therefore do you think that if the colonialism in Canada were to end that Native Canadian women would be paid equally to that of an Asian women? Or would their average wages increase to that of another race in Canada? Great post.

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  2. I love your take on this article. You took an interesting approach that no one else did, focussing on the differences between women of colour and white women within the age gap. This is a key example and component of intersectionality, and I think it is an important factor that people don’t always address when talking about the wage gap. What ways do you think would be best to educate people on this subject, and make sure that it cannot be ignored. Do you think this is something that can be changed permanently, and if so, what sort of impact would it have on society and sexism as a whole?

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  3. To break down the colonialism of Indigenous women in Canada, I have no straight forward answer. In essence, it would take the Canadian Government, as well as other forms of systemic racism to stop treating the Indigenous peoples like a nuisance they must tolerate rather than human beings. Ideally, with colonialism and system forms of racism being put to an end, as you say in your question, it would lead to all races and genders being of equal pay. So yes, Asian women would earn equal wage as Indigenous women (as per matching qualifications).

    Do you think there are any other factors that could play into the wage gap rather than just the colonialism in Canada? How do you suppose those factors could be removed?

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  4. I agree with @goldengael18 your approach to this article is very different/interesting but I liked it. It really shows in your work how strong you are towards this topic. Not many focus on how the gender gap is amongst all women, age, race, culture, so thank you for highlighting that.

    I really enjoy your concluding paragraph. You ended it leaving the reader questioning the thought of if gender wage gap can be changed now or in the future or if it is forever like this.

    My question to you is:In your honest opinion, do you believe that there is a way/fix to end this? As well as, if you were working at a job, and working harder/more productive what ideas do you have to change the way you are getting paid?

    Thanks for the read!

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