Women still owed wage parity

NationalPost.com – news
Dec. 5, 2011.

Women rule the workplace. Well, almost. The number of employed women outnumbered men in Canada in 2009 for the first time. One reason: Education. More women than men graduate from university in Canada. As a result, more women are becoming the primary breadwinners in their families.

But while women are in the majority on the job, they still hit roadblocks that keep their positions and salaries below that of their male counterparts. Sure, women have seen advances in their pay packets. Statistics Canada reported last year that between 1997 and 2007, the proportion of women matching or exceeding their husbands’ earnings climbed to 42% from 37%.

But crunch the numbers differently, and the figures tell a much different story. In 2007, Canadian women brought home an average of $43,000; men earned $60,300. Put another way: women earned an average of 71.4% of men.

Part of the reason for the wage gap is that women make up 70% of part-time workers in this country and therefore earn less, according to the Torontobased executive research firm Rosenzweig & Co.’s fifth annual Report on Women at the Top Levels of Corporate Canada. Others such as Martha Fell, executive director of Women in Capital Markets, a Torontobased non-profit organization addressing the advancement of women, argue women are simply not as good as men at negotiating salaries.

Those are certainly valid reasons behind the persistent difference between what women and men earn, but it doesn’t explain why women are not fully represented in the corridors of power, which would go a long way to addressing the wage gap.

One barrier to women entering the highest levels of corporate power is networking. The problem with boards, for example, is that the decisions are “done too informally,” says Karen Hughes, a professor of social structure and policy at the University of Alberta. Deals are cut on golf courses and in bars, where women aren’t found as often as men.

She adds that directors often rely on personal networks and are attracted to people who are like them. Sue Riddell Rose, the chief executive of Perpetual Energy in Calgary, says it’s still “an old boys network in the oil business,” but has discovered that there is an edge to being one of the few women at the top: People will remember you.

Women who take more than one year off to have children experience a persistent wage gap even after they return to the workforce, according to the 2010 TD Economics report, Career Interrupted – The Economic Impact of Motherhood. This wage difference is called the “motherhood gap.” A woman who works continuously for six years will see her earnings rise, but a woman who takes a six-year break faces a persistent 3% penalty per year of absence. For a woman earning $60,000, that penalty adds up to $325,000 in lost earnings if she were to work for another 20 years after having kids.

One would expect that the longer a woman stays out of the market, the bigger the wage penalty. Not so, according to the report. Women who take shorter, but multiple maternity leaves see a bigger drop in sal-ary than women who take one long extended maternity leave. Beata Caranci, TD’s deputy chief economist and co-author of the report, believes the reason for the difference is that taking more than one maternity leave “can send a signal to your employer that you don’t have a strong labour force attachment or that you aren’t very ambitious.”

The arrival of babies means many women find themselves taking unexpected hairpin turns in their careers. Rosenzweig & Co. consultant Jay Rosenzweig says the lack of day care and inadequate social arrangements hurt women trying to juggle work and home pressures. According to a 2007 study by two Canadian professors, Linda Duxbury and Christopher Higgins, women are more likely than men to report high levels of role overload and caregiver strain. This is because women devote more hours per week than men to non-work activities such as child care and elder care, and are more likely to have primary responsibility for unpaid labour such as domestic work in addition to any work outside the home.

Michelle Heaphy found out about the strain firsthand as she climbed her way up the ladder, first as a money market trader, then as director of corporate banking at Scotia Capital. She became the breadwinner of her household, making more money than her husband, but she was still “doing everything” at home. “I’m a pretty ambitious individual and wanted to have it all, but that hit me squarely in the face when I had a child,” says Ms. Heaphy. “When I was trading and a mom, I would get up at four in the morning to work out because it was the only time I could do it… it was brutal. These days, my work/life balance is quite good.”

Andrea Doucet, a sociology professor at Carleton University, and author of the book on breadwinner moms, Bread and Roses – And the Kitchen Sink, says when both spouses work there is a lot of tension around housework. These tensions can lead to divorce, particularly in middle-and lower-income families that can’t afford to hire help. More women are relying on husbands who are either stay-at-home dads or have less stressful jobs and do more of the household chores and child care.

But although the number of female breadwinners is growing, Ms. Doucet says most women take the stance that when their children are young, they have to take a step back from their careers, or at the very least put them on cruise control.

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2 Comments

  1. The increase of women into the paid labour market is one of the most dramatic changes of the century. More women are becoming primary breadwinners, graduating from university and outnumbered men in the workplace. This is showing that women in today’s society have the same equality as men in the workforce however that is a false statement. Yes, women’s equality has improved yet there is so much more that needs to be done.
    The growing work-field of participation of women brings in the problem of economic inequality of wage differences. Many of the higher paying occupations continue to be traditionally male dominated because men are thought to be the more powerful sex through society. The occupations that are dominated by women are generally seen as being less important, requiring lower skills thus earning lower wages than occupations done by men. Women who do enter high paying male dominated jobs usually do not stay there long with the interruption of childbirth and child bearing which leads women to positions into part time work or lower wages. This article and many others show that women’s equality has improved but women are not be respected or recognized in the workplace still. Women deserve the same opportunities as men in the workplace if they have the same education. Many jobs that refuse women could be missing out on an opportunity to make use out of women talents that they gained from going to school.
    While reading this article I was shocked that woman who take shorter but multiple maternity leaves see a bigger drop in salary than women who take one long extended maternity. Women have a right to take time off from their work when having a child. Both, men and women want children, but why is only women penalized within the workplace? Since Canada does not have a good day care system this leads to many women unable to return to the workplace because child care is too expensive. When women return to work earlier this should show that the employer is ambitious however some women do not have the opportunities to do that even though they might want to.
    Women face many barriers within the workplace but men need to help women out more within the household with the children. Women are forced to take a step back from their career while having and raising children. The federal government needs to help women by allowing them to participate in the workplace with affordable childcare. In general, women have made many gains in terms of entering the labour force but due to economic restructuring and bias in society they have and still continue to struggle with receiving equal rights in the workplace. Women need to continue to work together to bring more change about it the world of work for all women.

  2. I believe that gender gap is a result of gender ideology that has manifested within our society for centuries. It is a term that is often present in research used as a substantive predictor for gendered behaviour and outcomes such marital quality, divorce, fertility and workforce participation. This form of ideology is used widespread and central to the various studies, and our understanding of its construction is very important. Its construction range in the domains from a traditional, conservative, anti-feminist to liberal, feminist and egalitarian standpoint. Throughout society, this form of ideology is expressed in the practise of male dominance and has been deeply rooted surrounding the values of male superiority and impurity of women. This is shadowed in the gratification of men’s work that has been used to justify the enslavement of women. Society’s belief system and principles are parallel to gender which is the underpinning reasons to unequal division into femininity and masculinity. This dominant ideology along with its norms and values has lead to the sexual division of labour confining women to under paid, under qualified, and less prestige occupations. Women’s roles in most social institutions, although essential, have been different form, less privileged than, and subordinate to those of men. Their invisibility is only one indicator of this inequality. Women are now depositing their efforts into the paid workforce, still earning a lesser wage compared to their male counterparts and still required to complete all the household duties upon arriving home. In relation to the economic roles played by males and females, the division of unpaid labour within the home is unequal. Within the home, women are responsible for cleaning and cooking which hold less recognition compared to the men which have been reinforced through society’s sexist ideology seen through tradition, religion, and economic pressures. Women most often find it very difficult to find work in the work force and because of this discouragement, they are more likely to work for less paying jobs. Markedly, it seems like since women’s career paths are constantly being interrupted with child birth, child rearing, and other domestic duties, they are becoming more discouraged to continue or advance their education/career thus earning greater salaries, all in all reinforcing their negative trends.
    Studies have proven to show that parental characteristics will shape the intergenerational transmission of children’s expectations and aspirations, the parenting styles will mark the way the children will adapt and achieve in social settings such as school, work, and families. Over time worldwide, children will grow up observing that the male figure acts as the sole provider, while also conducting himself as head of the household, making major decisions that are only allotted to the paternal figure. The female counterpart, on the other hand, plays the role of the demanding role of caretaker, provider, and maintainer of the household, yet she is forced to dwell within the confines that are deemed acceptable my social and religious standards. The male represents the external power of the family, while the female claims the role of the moving internal, subservient. Children in particular are prepared for playing these various roles according to their gendered script. This being the case, individuals are often motivated to keep their behaviour consistent with their self-meaning, when their behaviour becomes inconsistent with the usual self meaning, they will alter their behaviour so as to confirm their self-identity within society.
    All in all, reframing of public policy will allow questions such as to distribution of resources, and who is ‘deserving’ of government support. These types of questions will allow us to challenge the under determination of women’s paid work which is a key factor in women’s economic insecurity.

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