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.