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.
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.