Wage equity worth a look inward

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A university that doesn’t acknowledge it may have a gender wage gap is trying hard not to see what’s blindingly obvious to the rest of us.

After a study uncovered a salary gap between McMaster’s male and female faculty members, the university attempted to make up for the discrepancy by giving a raise in base pay to their entire female faculty.

In a similar effort, Ryerson University provides employees with information on how other employees’ salaries compare based on gender, age and years of service, so that any inequalities can be identified and corrected.

Employees should be paid for what their work is worth, regardless of their gender. Handing out money to the token women, as McMaster did, is more of a Band-Aid solution, while Ryerson’s emphasis on transparency is more effective.

Investigation into gender inequalities in the workplace is vital, because for an issue that has such a simple solution — pay women the same wage as men — it’s an extremely intricate problem with many unknown causes.

Women are less likely to enter STEM disciplines where earnings are higher, while the professions women generally gravitate towards professions that are lower paying — possibly because they’re traditionally ‘women’s work.’

Women can be disproportionately devalued for reasons perceived to be connected with their productivity, but realistically caused by their gender — such as needing more flexible work hours for family obligations or the possibility of maternity leave.

Men are also statistically more aggressive when negotiating for wages and other benefits, and value their time and work more highly than their female co-workers.

The confidence gap that underlies the wage gap is rooted deeply in earlier development. It’s a systemic problem that most employers or institutions can’t tackle at its roots, but they can still work to mitigate its results.

As demonstrated by McMaster and Ryerson, universities have the ability to tackle the implications of this confusing melee of factors.

Despite the varying effectiveness of these schools’ approaches, it’s heartening that they are at the very least acknowledging that a discrepancy exists.

Queen’s, meanwhile, has been silent on this front.

If this gap is occurring with such prevalence at other universities — and in Canada at large — it’s reasonable to extrapolate that it’s happening here as well.

So, while we can’t necessarily figure out the issue by sitting in a room saying “I bet this is why this happens”, not turning a blind eye to the problem is the least a university can do.

— Journal Editorial Board

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