Gender Wage Gap: Myth or Fact?

Spoiler Alert:  It’s somewhere in between.

In Canada, the Gender Wage Gap shows that a female full-time worker makes 73.5 cents to every dollar a male full-time worker makes.

Make you angry, right?

Let’s look into it a little further.

Most people probably figure “wage” means it is based on hourly pay since “minimum wage” and “hourly wage” are very common terms in society.

What if I told you that the Gender Wage Gap is based on yearly pay?

That’s exactly what it is based on.  It is not the direct hourly wage comparison that it seems to be on the surface.  It is calculated based on yearly earnings.  It is also not adjusted for hours worked or for choices of work.

Choices of work?

This is where it gets a little more tricky.  Gender certainly plays a part in how some jobs are valued, but that’s not the whole story.  We should also take into consideration that there may be inherent differences between men and women that factor into job choices, and the effect that supply and demand can have on different lines of work.

Inherent gender differences?

Yes.  Blame evolution.

Here is a study that found male monkeys have a strong preference for wheeled toys while female monkeys showed greater variability in preferences.  We can also easily see differences in size in many species of animals according to gender, so we shouldn’t be surprised that there may be some physical differences between human genders.  These types of differences could also come into play to an extent when it comes to decisions around raising children – which is likely to affect choices surrounding number of hours worked.

What does it mean?

It means that job choices and hours worked are more than just a gender issue.  They shouldn’t be ignored, but factoring them into the Gender Wage Gap is a questionable practice.

Fortunately here in Canada, there are more accurate numbers we can look at.

If we remove the number of hours worked and focus on comparing hourly wages, the gap narrows significantly to 87 cents female to one dollar male.

That’s more than half of the gap.

If we take it a step further and compare wages for similar jobs (when gender differences in industry, occupation, education, age, job tenure, province of residence, marital status, and union status are taken into account) the number moves up even further to 91 cents female to one dollar male.

In comparable situations, the Gender (hourly) Wage Gap is a difference of 9 cents.

It’s still a problem that needs to be dealt with, but it’s not quite the problem some people make it out to be.  We do already have laws in place to help prevent gender wage discrimination.  Take a look at Canada’s Employment Equity Act.  Provinces have various Pay Equity or Pay Equality Acts on top of that.

We still should include Job Values and Hours Worked Yearly in the same conversation.  However, we should be careful not to use them irresponsibly to incite fears of inequality — We should be working toward correcting the actual inequalities.

Some now refer to the Gender Wage Gap as the “Gender Pay Gap”.  This comes across as a more honest approach.  Inclusion of the word “yearly” could help to minimize the number of people being misinformed by the surface statistic.

Myth!!  Fact!!

No.  No.  It’s not one or the other.  Both viewpoints have some truth to them, but neither one is the full truth.

Now you know better.

(all stats courtesy Statcan)

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