But more could be done, says president of group focused on helping women in STEM
The Ontario government’s announcement that it will soon introduce legislation that would require employers to include expected salary ranges in job postings is a good start in the fight to end the gender pay gap, said one expert.
“It's really encouraging,” said Saadia Muzaffar, president, TechGirls Canada (TGC), in talking with HRD Canada.
“I think that measures like this are long overdue. And one of the reasons why it's particularly relevant to the work that I'm involved in with women in [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] (STEM) in Canada's labor market is that when we don't have transparency, we are negotiating in the dark. And nobody should be asked to do that.”
TGC is also the Canada Centre for Immigrant Women in STEM, which represents 52% of Canada's women-in-STEM workforce, according to their website.
“I'm cautiously optimistic for this legislation to have the kind of impact that we need,” Muzaffar said. “I say cautiously because having legislation is one thing and enforcing it is another. So how well it is enforced will show how much impact it can have. But I think it's a good start.”
Ontario’s pay transparency proposal is part of the new “Working for Workers” legislation, with the aim of increasing transparency for job seekers.
This is particularly important for immigrant women in STEM, said Muzaffar. While these workers make up the majority of the workforce, they are paid much lower than their counterparts, she said.
“If we look at the number of immigrant women who are part of Canada's women in [the] STEM workforce, they make up 52% of women in STEM sectors. Yet they have the worst outcomes when it comes to underemployment, unemployment and wage gap.
“An immigrant woman in STEM makes 55 cents to every dollar that a non-immigrant man with the same qualifications makes. If you think about that over a career, that is a lot of money. It makes a material difference.”
The $100,000 threshold
However, Muzaffar, along with other organization leaders, is raising a concern about the $100,000 salary threshold that the Ontario government seems to have put on the pay transparency rule proposal.
“When the initial announcement was made by the government that this legislation… would be tabled, they hinted that it might apply only to jobs that pay $100,000 or under. So it will not apply to any job that pays $100,000 or over,” said Muzaffar.
That would be a bad decision for the government, she said.
“It's a missed opportunity. Because if we are putting a law in place that says, people don't need to negotiate in the dark – that they should know how their work is valued and how we value work in this economy is by pay – it seems arbitrary to just pick a number and say these people deserve transparency and these people don't. We think that just as a core principle is flawed.”
In an open letter to David Piccini, Ontario’s minister of labour, immigration, training and skills development, that was signed by Muzaffar and other stakeholders, they noted this similar concern.
‘Sunshine list’ everywhere?
Muzaffar also noted that the Ontario government can do more to help address the gender wage gap.
“I would really encourage the government to make sure that [salary] information is available, because that changes how people approach a problem, but then to provide them pathways going forward.
“As an example, if I am in a department where others are getting paid something that I don't know about, I should have a way to have access to that information.”
The government publishes its annual “Sunshine list”, and Muzaffar noted that “a version of that needs to exist everywhere”.
Meanwhile, Muzaffar said that Ontario’s pay transparency legislation proposal could be beneficial to employers.
“Employers who are serious about retaining good talent and finding good talent would be excited [about this].
“If we can just look at the larger picture from the employers’ side, this helps them get good people and keep them. This… also gives them an idea of what the market is willing to pay for a particular type of talent outside of their company, which means that they can stay competitive.So if they focus on the upside, I think there is a win-win [scenario] here for all of us.”