by Denny Warner, Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce –
You would have to have been in a media bubble not to have noticed how women’s issues have proliferated in the media lately. The #MeToo movement has emboldened women and their allies to also speak out about inequalities like the wage gap and gender parity.
Recent Statistics Canada income reports indicate that the current wage gap between men and women in full-time jobs stands at 26%. In 2015, Justin Trudeau responded to a question about why it was important to him to have gender equality in his cabinet by saying: “Because it’s 2015.” Many women were encouraged to hear that response. By most reports, his efforts to attain gender equality have paid off, as the women appointed to those cabinet positions have performed well. What is disheartening is that gender and wage equality is taking so very long to achieve. The issue of women’s inequality has been discussed and debated for a depressing length of time, with very little movement on the wage front or in the numbers of women holding executive or board positions.
So what’s the situation for working women in our area? The Saanich Peninsula, while a particularly lovely, safe place to live and raise a family, presents challenges for those on the lower end of the income scale to thrive. Housing and childcare are both expensive and difficult to find. Public transportation is limited in its coverage of the Peninsula, and buses do not run as frequently as would be necessary to be a viable option for commuting to work.
The increase in minimum wage is good news for women, as more women than men are currently paid at that level. On the Saanich Peninsula, the largest numbers of jobs are in the service and care-giving sectors and these typically lower-paying jobs are most often filled by women. The manufacturing and technology sectors offer higher-paying entry-level positions which more often appeal to men, but women are beginning to make inroads here. The culture is changing as more women adopt leadership roles in these formerly male-dominated industries. Male leaders are beginning to understand and appreciate how the soft skills women bring to the workplace contribute to creating more productive, profitable, collaborative environments. Women are proficient at dealing with diverse ideas, handling multiple personality types and managing multiple tasks simultaneously.
Women have options to increase earnings other than employment in the manufacturing or technology industries. One is to start your own business! Women make successful entrepreneurs because they ask for help, are great communicators, make good team leaders and are smart about building relationships with their various stakeholders. If you happen to be working in someone else’s business where there is wage inequality, ask for the pay you deserve. Research indicates that women actually are asking for raises but are less likely to receive them because of social penalties, but these can be overcome. Go into negotiations prepared. State your case with compelling evidence including research of what people are paid in comparable positions, outline your achievements and be prepared to substantiate why it is that you merit receiving the amount you are requesting.
And when your business is thriving or you have got that raise you requested and are rocking those expensive dry-clean only suits at work, you can cast your attention to the issue of gender pricing, sometimes called the “pink tax.” The fight for equality continues.