The gender wage gap is an issue, there is no doubt about that. There are articles, reports and years of research that back it up.
The fact is that women make on average $0.72 for every dollar a man makes in Canada.
What doesn’t make the headlines is how the wage gap affects women of colour and Indigenous women. Comparing one category of ‘women’ to men when it comes to the wage gap ‘reinforces the rigid power structures’ that compound the problem.
When you include race in the findings, you realize that this is an even more serious issue.
Studies in Canada have shown that racialized women were paid 13 per cent less than white women and Indigenous women earned 18 per cent less than the average non-Indigenous woman, and 46 per cent less than the average white man.
So why exactly is this happening?
One of the main reasons there is such a huge gap is discrimination. Whether it is blatant or systemic, opportunities are not provided or are taken away for women of colour and Indigenous women.
Indigenous women and visible minority women are also more likely to live in poverty, at a rate of 36 per cent and 28 per cent respectively. Getting out of this cycle and moving forward economically can be very difficult.
Research has found that women of colour and Indigenous women tend to hold ‘hourly wage jobs and work in lower-paid fields’ and they also tend to work fewer hours because of the nature of their work. Also, women of colour and Indigenous women are often significantly lacking in leadership roles.
And this lack of opportunity affects pay. Add to this the patriarchal system we live in and the fact that most women have their careers interrupted to care for family members, and you can see why this is such a huge issue.
Unions have been able to help with this. In Alberta, women with unions earned $7.76/hour more with a union. They are able to bargain for fair wages for all employees, no matter your race or gender.
So next time you are talking about the pay gap, make sure you go deeper than just comparing men to women. Women aren’t just one category and if we want to move towards pay equity we must keep that in mind.