Ontario Sunshine List sharpens call for equal pay for women

It is always easy (and valid) to focus on the people at the top as there are relatively few positions given their prominence and the relatively small numbers that one can easily analyse.

What is harder and takes more time, is to go through the entire list of some 65,000 names and do diversity analysis (based on names) to see the overall pattern.

To the Ontario government’s credit, the information is provided directly in spreadsheet form. If I get bored …

Naureen Rizvi says she was disappointed when only four women cracked the top 20 spots on Ontario’s annual Sunshine List, even as the province says it’s “on track” to close the wage gap.

“I always feel it’s not fast enough,” Rizvi told CBC Toronto at a Ryerson University event focused on women’s economic empowerment.

“I don’t accept that it takes 90 years to get to parity.”

At her job as the Ontario regional director with Unifor, Rizvi represents hundreds of thousands of unionized employees across a huge range of sectors, and she says there are wage gaps everywhere she looks.

‘We know that transparency is really important for achieving gender equity.’– Sarah Kaplan, Director at Rotman’s Institute for Gender and the Economy

A quick scan of the top of the Sunshine List merely confirms it. At universities, not one woman making a six-figure salary made as much as the top 20 men. At municipalities, only three women were among the best-paid.

Indira Naidoo-Harris, the province’s minister for the status of women, says the province is well aware there’s more work to do. Within the public service, she said, women make up some 55 per cent of the workforce, but take home about 12 per cent less money than their male counterparts.

The province has a strategy to deal with this, which includes setting targets for the number of women it wants at top levels.

“I think these are important targets because they really show that we are committed to really making sure that we’re putting those women in those positions of leadership where they belong,” Naidoo-Harris said.

“And that will absolutely open doors.”

Province setting targets to get women in top jobs

While the province is hoping to lead by example, it’s also asking companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange to alter their boards so they’re made up of at least 30 per cent women by 2020 (internally, the government’s target for women on boards is 40 per cent).

Naidoo-Harris also touted the government’s recently announced investments in child care, and called on women in this province to demand equality.

Sarah Kaplan, the director of Rotman’s Institute for Gender and the Economy, says the Sunshine List is a “small window” into the equity issue. But, she said, women should take advantage of any transparency when it comes to information about pay.

And Kaplan, who is on the list along with many of her colleagues, has done exactly that in the past.

“I said. ‘Here are the people that were promoted at the same time I was promoted — why are they getting paid more than me?'”.

It may not always work, Kaplan says, but it does lead to pointed questions.

“We know that transparency is really important for achieving gender equity,” she said.

Income inequality tougher for women who make less money

Sheila Block, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, says it’s an “excellent idea” to use the list’s information to bargain, and that people from racialized groups, or those with different levels of ability, could do the same.

Block said the information can also be revealing about the biases that exist at certain institutions — something either employees or the employers themselves can question.

While it’s far from perfect, both Block and Kaplan note the public sector tends to be a fairer place for women.

“One of the things we’re most concerned about is the income inequality at the bottom end of the income spectrum,” Block said.

The Sunshine List itself doesn’t track gender, and crunching those numbers can be difficult due to androgynous names like Erin or Kim.

Source: Ontario Sunshine List sharpens call for equal pay for women – Toronto – CBC News


About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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