Advancing gender equality in Canadian workplaces


Much progress has been made over the last 40 years on gender equality in Canada, but the gender wage gap remains a reality. Making sure all people receive equal pay for work of equal value is not only a moral imperative, it is an economic advantage. When people feel they are competing on an even playing field, it unlocks their enthusiasm, encourages their creativity and pushes them to reach their optimal potential.

Over the years, greater participation of women in the workforce has accounted for about one-third of Canada’s economic growth. Despite this progress, the gender wage gap persists. Based on the most recent data, Canadian women earned 89 cents for every dollar Canadian men earned.

There are several leaps in logic here that require people to suspend any expectation of context or situational awareness. One of the big ones is “employment experience”. Women generally have several years less employment experience than men of the same age due to the challenges of raising young children. Based on the numbers that the government themselves publish, men with five fewer years experience in a field earn, on average, 15~20% less than their more experienced counterparts. A 25 year old man earns less than a 30 year old man, who earns less than a 40 year old man, who earns less than a 50 year old man.

To ensure women receive equal pay for work of equal value, we developed the Pay Equity Act (the Act), which is expected to come into force later next year in federally regulated workplaces. However, before the Act comes into force, regulations that will complete the pay equity regime need to be finalized.

This is going to be really hard to validate. How does one judge the equality of work? Is it by job title? Is it by task? Could a database administrator who maintains a system be considered “less valuable” than a database administrator who architects a system? Both jobs are crucial, but one requires an additional skill set over the other.

These initiatives will help create workplaces where workers feel safer, more valued, more included and secure. Creating these enhanced conditions will enable and encourage workers to do their best work, which is a net positive for employers and the economy.

Where is the evidence for this? History has shown that the companies who flatten their pay scales do a couple of things:

  1. They unnecessarily devalue the efforts of high performers, regardless of genetic configuration
  2. They encourage people to forfeit overtime, as one person working overtime creates an imbalance in the group or, worse, overtime efforts are pooled and split evenly across all members of the group, rewarding the laziest and punishing the foolhardy
  3. They drive the highest performers away, reducing the effectiveness of the organization

Canada already has a serious “brain-drain” problem. These “equality of outcome” situations only exacerbate it.

We are also moving forward with a new Administrative Monetary Penalties regime to help create safer and more just working conditions through improved compliance with the Canada Labour Code.

In other words, pay that is aligned with effort is illegal.

These initiatives for greater workplace safety, wage equality and pay transparency by our government constitute a new approach to fairness in the workplace. We have taught our children that equality is a given and not a debate. It is time to show that we practice what we preach when it comes to equality in the workforce.

There is a lie in here. Equality is not a given; it is a responsibility. Equality of opportunity is the responsibility of all people, regardless of who seeks that opportunity. Equality of outcome is an impossible lie that disincentivizes entire societies. We’ve seen this before in Soviet Russia, Maoist China, Polpot’s Cambodia …

Equality of outcome is effectively a death sentence for creative output across all fields.

There is no doubt in my mind that a person who does a task should be paid according to the value they bring an organization. Their gender, appearance, political stance, or ideological beliefs should not even come into the equation because there’s no justification for it. However, to think that every person with a specific job title is just as valuable as another is an outright lie and it should be called out as such.

Bill C-65 is a whole lot of evil codified in law, and it’s going to kill any reason for truly remarkable Canadians to bust their butt to excel at something they consider valuable. Why in the world would anyone want to put in 80 hour weeks if their pay will be exactly the same as someone with the same job title who is in the office for 40 hours and maybe works for 5 of those hours?