May, 2016 / Author:

Most often when we talk about the wage gap, we’re discussing the difference in pay between men and women who are doing essentially the same job and who have virtually the same skill set. However, the wage gap increases when race, sexuality and other factors are brought into the mix.

First, let’s start with the basics. The wage gap, contrary to the belief of many, does exist. The idea that it doesn’t may be due to a misconception that unequal pay for people of different backgrounds is illegal. It isn’t. Although, many unions do have wage equity guarantees for members.

The Future Of Female-dominated Occupations, a book by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, revealed that for years, fields dominated by women have not only been perceived as easier, but also often have a lower salary. Even fields that were once dominated by men but, over time, became more women dominated experienced decreases in salary. A 2014 survey by the American Association of University Women found that women are paid 21 per cent less than men in the United States. Black women are paid 36 per cent less than those same men, a full 15 per cent less than women who are white. According to Statistics Canada, black people of all genders experience a 10 to 15 per cent wage gap compared to white people.

The wage gap Indigenous Canadians face has been a huge problem for a long time. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives states that based on their research, without the help of the government, it would take about 63 years to eliminate the wage gap that Indigenous people in Canada face, based on the documented progress in the past.–

A 2013 study titled Sexual Orientations and Gender Typicality of the Occupation in Young Adulthood found that gay men and women pursue careers that, stereotypically, the opposite gender would hold. For example, gay men are less likely to work in engineering or science, while lesbians are less likely to work in retail. The same study found that gay people often end up in fields where the wage gap is the largest. This finding causes a lot of debate on whether the wage gap is actually based on bias. But with other studies showing that gay men receive fewer interviews and job offers than straight men, perhaps gay men are pursuing jobs with the largest wage gap because it’s often, but definitely not always, the only jobs they are offered.

A 2015 study by Gender and Society found that gay men with partners earn five per cent less than straight men with partners.

While lesbians do still earn less than heterosexual men, a new study by the University of Melbourne and San DiegoState University found that lesbians earn 33 per cent more than heterosexual women. Nick Drydakis, co-author of the study, suggests that a factor in this wage gap is due to the theory that lesbians are more career oriented. The same study found that a lower percentage of lesbians have children in comparison to heterosexual women. This may be a big factor in why employers are more likely to promote lesbians, as they are less likely to leave work to raise children. This gap is likely more due to motherhood than it is to sexuality.

People who are transgender face different forms of wage change in the workforce. A study by the B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy, based on collected data from cis and trans people, found that transgender women often found their wages decrease by nearly one-third post transition, while transgender men found their wages increase slightly. The same study states that it’s likely that the wage gap may be mainly due to sexism, rather thantransphobia, although transphobia is still likely a factor.

A 2012 survey by The National Centre for Transgender Equality involving more than 6,000 transgender individuals found that 47 per cent of survey partici- pants said they had faced some form of discrimination at work—whether it wasbeing fired, not hired or denied a promotion—due to being trans or genderqueer.

In order to eliminate the wage gap, we need to build awareness of it in all forms. True equality cannot become a reality until the discrimination and bias that cause the wage gap are brought to light. It’s quite common for people to think there is nothing they can do to help end discrimination in the workforce; however it’s the communities that stand together whose voices will be heard.


–Faith Ginter is 19. They were born and raised in Winnipeg, Man., and identify as gender neutral. Their goal is to pursue a career in journalism and/ or illustration.

Sidebar

CANADIAN WOMEN’S FOUNDATION has recommendations for taking action to close the wage gap. Here are a few:

  • Encourage girls to enter high-wage occupations and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers.
  • Advocate for improved workplace policies, such as child care and family leave.
  • Recognize and fight gender stereotypes in the workplace.
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