Gender pay gap: what can you do to negotiate for equal pay

Working Canadian women earn 89 cents for every dollar men earn. So, for those asking  if the gender pay gap is real, the answer is simple: yes.

What’s less simple is answering the question, why? How is it that despite pay equity legislation, women in Canada continue to experience disparities in their earnings compared to their male counterparts? And just as important — if not more — how can women negotiate to ensure they receive equal pay for work of equal value?

What is the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap refers to the difference in average earnings between men and women. It is calculated by comparing the median earnings of all working men and women in a given population.

In Canada, like in many other countries, the gender pay gap has been a matter of concern for decades. Despite significant advancements in women’s rights and gender equality, women still find themselves earning less than men, even in comparable job roles and with similar levels of education and experience.

What is causing the gender pay gap in Canada?

Occupational segregation and “motherhood penalty”

Various factors contribute to the persistence of the gender pay gap in Canada. One of the primary drivers is occupational segregation, wherein women are more likely to work in industries and professions that traditionally pay less than in male-dominated fields. This imbalance perpetuates lower earnings for women across the board.

Additionally, the wage gap is exacerbated by the “motherhood penalty.”

More than half of women provide care to children and care-dependent adults in Canada and that women provide the majority of unpaid care.

Statistics Canada

The resulting challenges of balancing work and family responsibilities can lead to career interruptions and reduced work hours. These factors can hinder career progression and limit earning potential, resulting in a wider pay gap.

Discrimination and unconscious biases

Discrimination and unconscious biases are other contributing factors. Despite efforts to promote gender equality, some employers may still discriminate against female employees in terms of hiring, promotion, and salary negotiations.

The gender pay gap in Canada

In Canada, the gender pay gap remains a pressing concern. While the overall pay gap is approximately 89 cents for every dollar earned by men, the disparity is even more substantial for Indigenous women, racial minorities, and those with disabilities.

Why is it important to close the gender pay gap

Addressing the gender pay gap is not only a matter of fairness and justice but also an essential step toward economic prosperity and social progress.

When women are paid equally for their work, it not only boosts their financial security and independence but also has a positive ripple effect on families, communities, and the economy as a whole.

Women in higher-paying roles and leadership positions can serve as role models, inspiring younger generations to pursue their career aspirations fearlessly. Closing the gender pay gap is an integral part of dismantling gender-based discrimination and fostering an inclusive and equitable society.

Read about: 5 career insights from Сanada’s most influential women

How to negotiate for equal pay

As individuals, there are steps that women can take to negotiate for equal pay and bridge the gender pay gap. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Research and awareness: Educate yourself about industry pay standards and be aware of the average salaries for your position and experience level. Understanding the market rates will give you confidence during negotiations.
  • Emphasize your value: Keep track of and highlight your skills, achievements, and contributions to the organization. Clearly articulate the value you bring to the table and how your expertise benefits the company.
  • Be assertive: Don’t shy away from salary discussions during interviews or performance reviews. Express your desire for fair compensation that aligns with your skills and experience.
  • Consider benefits and perks: Compensation negotiations go beyond just salary. Advocate for additional benefits, flexible working hours, and opportunities for career growth.
  • Seek support and mentorship: Connect with other women in your industry, join professional networks, and seek mentorship from experienced individuals who can guide you through the negotiation process.
  • Break the silence: Many of us have been taught not to discuss our salaries, however, transparency is one of the most effective tools to achieve pay equity. Information is power — if it’s taboo for colleagues in your organization to share salary information, you may want to ask yourself why.

While the gender pay gap is a real and persistent issue, understanding its causes and taking proactive steps toward equal pay can lead to positive change. By collectively advocating for pay equity and empowering women to negotiate fair compensation, we can pave the way toward closing the gender pay gap in Canada and creating a more inclusive and equitable society.