Lack of pay equity legislation within the private sector halting advancements to close the gender pay gap
The New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity is an organization based in Moncton that aims to illustrate the ways women-dominated fields are undervalued and underpaid in the province by way of research, evaluations, and advocacy work.
Krysta Cowling, the Chair of the organization, differentiated between pay equity and pay equality, stating that pay equality suggests that two people in the same job should be getting paid the same. Comparatively, pay equity is “when we look at people in different jobs” to compare qualifications, responsibilities, effort, and working conditions. The problem is that currently, “we often see that the women-dominated jobs tend to be paid less than male-dominated jobs, even if the value of the work is the same or very similar,” said Cowling.
In New Brunswick, pay equity legislation exists within the public sector, but unfortunately not in the private sector, which is something that the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity continues to advocate for. Johanne Perron, the Executive Director of the organization, stresses the importance of pay equity legislation by stating that “we currently have an hourly wage gap of 7 percent between men and women in New Brunswick.” Perron says that over a 40-year career, that difference in wages equates to a loss of $133,000.
Women continue to earn less than men in New Brunswick despite having higher levels of education than men do. Why this does not translate to higher wages remains a pressing concern to Perron. She states that resistance to “acting to ensure pay equity” is a trend among employers. Specifically, in Quebec, where pay equity is legislated in the private sector, 85 percent of employers “who did pay equity said that they did it because there was legislation,” said Perron. Alas, pay equity legislation doesn’t happen unless people ask for it and if employers are incentivized by a change in regulation.
Cowling emphasized the disproportionate impact of pay equity issues on racialized women in the province. Black and Indigenous women, for example, “make a lot less than white women do on average if we look at those hourly rates,” she said. “We have a province that is really promoting immigration, trying to fill a bunch of roles in industries that we really need people to work in,” Cowling stressed, but she added that “we know we’re underpaying them.” Using migrant women to fill positions in industries that are underpaid is not going to decrease the pay gap, but using gender-based analyses and evaluations within these fields would be an effective solution if the legislation were adopted.
Perron and Cowling recognize that there are many systemic issues at play, which is why they believe pay equity to be part of the solution rather than the entirety of it. However, these issues that persist within the private sector should be of concern, as stated by Perron, for “somebody entering the workforce now, [as] it means a lot over their full career.”
Another more significant, identifiable systemic issue that impacts women’s working conditions is that our government is a system that was “made by men for men,” said Cowling. She added that “[women] have historically had to overcome a lot of difficulties,” such as getting the right to vote and being integrated into working environments. While she understands that there is a lot of history to work against, she questions whether the system is “changing as quickly as we need it to.”
Cowling emphasized the importance of getting a membership because “it gives us more weight” when asking the government for legislation changes. The only thing that is expected of members when joining is that they support pay equity; the rest depends on their availability and willingness to engage. The benefits of becoming a member are that you get “more access to information” such as the weekly newsletter and annual reports, an opportunity “to participate in the democratic life of the organization,” and the ability to run to be on the board, explained Perron.
People can get involved in the upcoming events that the coalition has planned, such as the upcoming pay transparency campaign that is to be launched in the coming months, and a joint event involving the FRYE festival in Moncton on May 18. For this event, the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity is hosting Susan MacLeod, the author of Dying for Attention, a graphic memoir of nursing home care, as well as a workshop and discussion with workers on nursing home care.
Other ways to support the coalition are through donations, as well as reacting to and circulating their posts on social media. Perron believes that even just conversing about pay equity and problems that working women face in the province with those around you can influence people and make a huge difference. “Change isn’t going to be created through silence, it’s really created by being vocal,” said Cowling.
To sign-up to be a member, visit https://equite-equity.com. To follow – Twitter: @equiteNBequity, Facebook: Coalition pour l’équité salariale du N-B, NB Coalition for Pay Equity.