Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Gendered wage gap in the media

Canadian newspapers have been taking an anti-feminist perspective regarding women and paid work. There was a recent study done by The Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action and the Canadian Labor Congress. I should start by saying that I have not yet had the opportunity to read through this 40 page report (I know, bad blogger... but I have a big test tomorrow and I am quite behind on my thesis, so I will have to finish reading it later).

Anyway, the report states that Canadian women earn 70 cents on a man's dollar. Canadian newspapers are accusing them of using incorrect data, claiming that the actual number was 84 cents on the dollar, hour per hour, because of women choosing part-time work. Women typically work fewer hours per week than men, and at different types of work. But this article blames women for making bad choices.

Women often work part-time for long periods of time, especially when they have young children, whereas men generally only work part-time as students under the age of 25. Women are believed to be naturally suited to childcare and household responsibilities, and by working part-time they can contribute to the household income while maintaining a close attachment to the home.

Another important aspect of part-time work is the discourse of chosen part-time work. Often, when a woman, especially a mother, chooses part-time over full-time work it is not because she would prefer to work fewer hours or because she does not need the additional pay that comes with full-time employment, but there are structural factors that make fewer hours the more practical choice for them at that time. For example, if a mother takes part-time work because she cannot access quality daycare services in her area, she may not have actually chosen part-time work; it was an external influence that shaped her decision. I think it is also important to note that rarely do such structural forces surrounding family life dictate whether a man/father works full-time, as it is women who are socialized to plan their lives around a family, while men are encouraged to plan their lives around a career.

Even when women work full-time, they are often not able to take on certain careers because of long hours, shift work, or a need to take time off when children are sick. It is generally not the father that stays home from work with a sick child- it is the mother. Of course, the article doesn't state any of the factors that might influence a woman's "choice" to do certain types of work. I have a possible career opportunity right now that would pay quite well, but requires a lot of traveling. If I were not the primary caretaker of two young children, I would apply for the job, and I believe I have a good chance at getting it. Because I cannot expect to find people to take care of them 4 to 10 days a month, I am instead going to graduate school in the hopes that I can find an equally good job that does not require traveling.

The article also talks about how women, who work proportionately more in the public sector, would then qualify for better pensions and maternity benefits than jobs which men predominate. If women have such great pensions, why is it that the poorest group, other than families headed by a single woman, is elderly widowed women? And parental leave can only be obtained if one has worked 900 hours in the previous year, which would be about 18 hours a week if I'm not mistaken, so, many part-timers wouldn't even qualify. And when they do qualify, it is based on a proportion of how much you made while working. This is usually 55%, but the article says many women get up to 93% of their income during maternity leave. This is misleading as 93% is the highest negotiated maternity leave by any public sector employer; it is not the norm.

The article ends by saying that we need to start by looking at the real numbers. I suggest they do the same.


  1. Missing the point. Statistics Canada is on the record with clear and valid explanations. They are comparing full-time hour averages. I speak from my environment for women "inequality". I know of personally three women which I would consider "workaholics", or dedicated to work and foremost. Many women I personally am friends with see work as an interference with a good social life. They only tend to drop this attitude by the time they reach their thirties or so. At work, I have yet to meet a single woman who is an "all-out" type of person. No, most of them want a social life, and are very willing to forfeit available work for it. Notably interesting is that more women are coming out with "uni papers", PhD's, BA's, etc. etc. As we can guess, most of these are younger females under thirty - which would explain why the big number of part-timers in that age range as compared to men. Why chase a problem that may not actually exist? A movement tends to lose credibility when it accuses one group of being unfair - and later being proven completely wrong.

  2. I'd like to add, that I believe you're chasing a philosophical point here... Where did family values go? What ever happened to the desire for man/woman to spend time with a family?

    On the elderly widowed thing: Simple, public sector pensions to women are still a pretty new concept, and the pay-outs for maternity and pensions simply haven't begun paying out yet (and don't forget, birth from Canadians is on a decline, so compensation will decline as well). Add on that many mens' previous pensions did not have a widow allowance after their passing-away, and this problem is compounded.

    You are correct on the parental leave, but, if neither partner has accumulated a piddly 900 hours, there was some great irreponsibility from either or both partners, or a pretty unnacceptable outlook to milk to population's money that the man and woman did not earn.

  3. i think its seen now that men and women are going to university almost equally.

    and really... women consider work just an interuption of social life? im going to guess more men do. unless mothers, more women without post-secondary will take the job at walmart, mcdonalds, or callcenters than men will - these men tend to prefer trying to get around on welfare. i cant back that up with real statistics, but from what i have personally seen of people working in these kinds of jobs and people sitting on welfare, it really is the case.

  4. what is bothering me most about this conversation is the rhetoric of choice, which Joel, you seem to be using here.

    A personal example from today... A friend of mine who happens to be a single male and has a GPA about 5% lower than mine is getting to attend a master's degree program with twice as much funding as I will receive. The reason for this is not because I CHOSE to stay at a less prestigious school, but because I have children and I cannot move them at this point in their lives- not because I do not want to, but because court and custody agreements will keep me here for a while. I am a very hard worker, but I am hard pressed to see it pay off at this point and I suspect that I am not alone in this experience.

    As for family values, I am glad that you wrote man/woman, because typically it is the woman that stays home and makes sacrifice with regards to her career or educational goals... men make such compromises much less often (not to say it doesn't happen, just that it is less common). For example, I have several male profs that commute from out of town- they spend 4 days a week in my city, then travel 4-6 hours to spend 3 days at home with families. I'm not sure a mother would do this nearly as often as fathers, and I don't think it would be as accepted by others around them.

    And the final comments by anonymous... you could be correct in that women take crap jobs while men navigate the welfare system, but I suspect that if we were to find such statistics, we would find that men have access to better jobs, such as "unskilled" labor, and are therefore not required to work at McDonalds or call centers as often as women.