• Laura Benitez-Ek

Breaking Down Gender Pay Disparity


“The typical woman earns 79 cents for every dollar that a typical man makes” (Kessler 2016).

Gender inequality is often described by the gender wage gap factoid quoted by social media, celebrities, and politicians. On numerous accounts, Obama cited it in his speeches for the support of the Equal Pay Act (Kessler 2016; Paquette and Harwell 2016). Although everybody is quick to use this statistic to highlight the gender wage gap, there are other socioeconomic factors that are at play.

Many argue that the reasoning behind this disparity is that women leave the workplace to raise their family. Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economist, discusses how women tend to work in specific occupations that pay lower than male-dominated fields. Goldin explains further that there are other reasons for the wage gap: that women typically take lower paying positions that allow for flexibility to care for their families (Gillett 2016).

In Canada, more women (26.9%) work part-time than their male-counterparts (11.9%), where one in five female part-time workers say they work part-time due to childcare or other familial responsibilities (Ferrao 2010). This highlights that work schedule and flexibility are major factors that women tend to consider when going into the workforce.

But what if workplaces could be more accommodating to those who care for their families at home? Claudia Goldin points out that the gender pay disparity would disappear if employers valued the amount of work produced rather than the number of hours spent working (Grant 2015). This would not only benefit women but men as well, who could better balance their work and family lives, given more flexibility.

Even though there are a multitude of factors, including social norms and career choices that contribute to the gender pay difference, the effect of closing the gap holds many benefits for Canada. In fact, a report by McKinsey Global Institute calculated that achieving gender pay equality could potentially increase the global economy worth by $28.4 trillion (or 26%) (2015).

As a soon-to-be graduate in the STEM field, I aspire to achieve my career goals while being successful outside of the workplace. But like many women straight out of school with hopes of workplace equality, it is not set-up in such a way to help us succeed at home and at work.

In 2012, Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”, an article that delved into the idea that we need to support those at home for there to be equality in the workforce (Slaughter 2012). We ought to acknowledge that being a stay-at-home mom or dad is a one of the most important jobs out there. Slaughter became the first woman director of policy planning at the State department, but after 2 years chose to be closer to home, with her two sons. She explains that in this day and age, having a family and being a professional working woman is difficult to say the least, and that the world needs to evolve in order for women (and men) to have it all.

Ferrao, V. (2010). Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report. Ottawa, Ontario, Statistics Canada.

Gillett, R. (2016). "Harvard economist says closing the US gender wage gap isn't as simple as 'equal pay for work'." The Business Insider.

Grant, T. (2015). "Canada's stalled progress on gender pay gap: Women have 'hit a brick wall'." The Globe and Mail.

Kessler, G. (2016). "Here are the facts behind that '79 cent' pay gap factoid." The Washington Post.

Paquette, D. and D. Harwell (2016). "Obama targets gender pay gap with plan to collect companies' salary data." The Washington Post.

Slaughter, A.-M. (2012). "Why Women Still Can't Have It All." The Atlantic.(July/August 2012).

(2015). "The power of parity." The Economist.


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