Is the gender wage gap a myth?

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The gender wage gap is a hot topic in the HR industry but the issue often splits opinion – some professionals say the gap is no more than myth perpetuated by the media while others insist it’s a pressing issue that’s only just getting the attention it deserves.

So which is it? HRM asked readers to share their opinion in a recent online poll.

The results

When asked the question ‘Is the gender wage gap a myth?’ HRM readers responded as follows:

Yes, definitely – 18 per cent
No, it’s a universal issue – 70 per cent
I don’t know – 12 per cent

What it means

Clearly, an overwhelming majority of HR professionals recognize the gender wage gap – which currently sits at an estimated 26 per cent in Ontario – is a very real issue.

According to the Pay Equity Commission, there are a number of factors affecting the disparity, including:
  • Women temporarily leaving the workforce in order to meet family care-giving responsibilities, resulting in a loss of seniority, advancement opportunity and wages.
  • Occupational segregation in historically low-paying jobs such as childcare and clerical work.
  • Less unionization among female workers
Despite these mitigating circumstances, statisticians estimate that as much as 10 to 15 per cent of the gender wage gap is due to discrimination.
Employment lawyer Richard Johnson told HRM that employers not paying equal wages could face serious legal repercussions.

“Human Rights legislation prohibits an employer from paying people different amounts for the same work on the basis of gender,” he said.

“If two individuals are performing the same tasks, they should receive the same pay,” he continued. “Otherwise, the employer risks potential Human Rights complaints.”

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