apples and oranges

Scribbled down on August 29th, 2006 by she
Posted in Save Us From Evil

Canoe is running an article about Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy and his anti-wage gap proposals.

Liberal leadership hopeful Gerard Kennedy is proposing an ambitious plan to erase the wage gap between men and women.The plan includes dramatically boosting day care spaces, eliminating inequities in the tax system and collaborating with business and labour to make the work force more equitable and hospitable for women.

You know, it’s stuff like this that really annoys me. I think my parents, having been members of the silent generation (rather than boomers). instilled a completely different concept of equity and ethics in me than those that Mr. Kennedy received.

Kennedy said his plan would not only give working women the income boost they deserve, it would lure up to 1.6 million more women into the work force.

Did anyone ask these 1.6 million women why they’re not in the workforce? Perhaps they’ve chosen to stay home and raise children themselves? Perhaps they absolutely HATED working and instead decided to dedicate themselves to volunteer work or gardening? Perhaps the little green aliens told them never to work or they wouldn’t get their fair share of green cheese when the moon explodes…

And while I’m in the midst of wondering what questions have and have not been asked – I feel the need to ask one of my own – just how many men are unemployed or underemployed in Canada? Who is doing anything to help them increase their job satisfaction, numbers in the work force or increase their salaries?

If no special programs or special interest group is aiding men, why in this day and age are we still insistant that programs such as these need to exist to help women? Oh, that’s right. According to someone somewhere (I believe this statement should be attributed to the articles author, Joan Brydan, and not Gerard Kennedy)…

Women currently earn about 75 per cent of the income earned by men with the same education and experience.

I really have a hard time accepting the validity of the above statement. Whenever I see it my blood starts to boil. Mainly, it’s because I’m still waiting for a copy of the research that generated this conclusion and recent research that confirms the conclusion is still valid. Perhaps I’m just completely clueless when it comes to the working world, but in my experience and knowing the salaries of both my male and female friends working in the same company as I do, I can honestly say that gender doesn’t seem to make one iota of difference when it comes to our wages.

For example, when I first moved into the world of IT,(Information Technology) there were few women working in the field. In my limited experience, promotions were based on ability and I had to prove my abililities in order to move ahead. Once I had “arrived”, I was paid exactly the same as every other male I worked with who had the same hiring profile (date of hire, job/position held, etc.). We worked the same shifts, did the same job, and were paid exactly the same.

Now, if I were to compare my salary when I was working in Manitoba to my salary when working in Edmonton, then I’d have to note that there was a difference in what I was paid. There is no way to attribute this change to gender, as the position I held was the same in both cities. I worked for the same company. What changed was the cost of living and taxes allotments.

Extending that further, if I were to compare what I am making working for Company X in Edmonton to what I could make working in the same position in Company Y, then differences exist there as well.

When I shifted from IT to ID (Instructional Design), I was once again starting at the bottom. Just like before, I am doing the same job, for the same money as my male counterparts. Sure, I’d love to get a promotion and earn more. Before I can do that, I need to EARN the promotion. I need to expand my skills, education, experience and ultimately my abilities. As much as I fantasize about my boss announcing that I’ve passed the final hurdle and will now be able to add the fabled “Sr.” to my job title and collect the pretty pay raise, I do recognize that it’s something I still need to work towards.

Did gender matter in any of these situations? Not in the slightest. Skills, abilities, education and experience all came in to play.

What does make a difference are the choices we make. Which field of study do we follow? Where do we choose to live and work? Who stays home with the children (if there are any)? These are all choices people make during the course of their lives.

So if choice, skills and abilities outweigh gender, how is Gerard Kennedy planning to save the world and right the wrongs done to women?

Create a workplace issues forum, bringing together government, labour and business to examine ways to make the work force more hospitable to women, including job sharing, flexible hours, better paid maternity leaves and encouraging more women to take apprenticeship programs in skilled trades.

  • Job Sharing? That’s existed for over 20 years. Perhaps not in every field, but whether or not it’s available is often driven by the needs of the business. My mom participanted in a job sharing program back in the 70′s and carried through to her retirement working different positions in a job sharing manner.
  • Flexible Hours? Again, this is something that has existed in many fields for decades. Once again, I think you can attribute whether or not it’s available in a specific field to whether or not it makes sound financial sense for whoever is signing the paycheque.
  • Better paid maternity leaves? You’re kidding me right? I give birth and I can have my absence from work partially covered for up to 50 weeks per child. A family member needs end of life care and I have to share a 6 week benefit term with everyone else who may be helping to handle palliative care needs. Good thing I have flexible hours (and locations) so I can work from home and care for my family members in need.
  • Encouraging more women to take appreticeship programs in skilled trades? Aha! Here’s an idea I can support. Within reason of course. If a woman wants to learn a trade and has the base skill set to do so, it should 100% be available to her. If she needs assistance reaching that base skill set (literacy or numeracy) that too should be available. However, I just can’t see how this one bullet point is worthy of a significant chunk of a 7 billion $$ budget.

I’ve finally found something I can support and then Gerard pours a bucket of ice over my head. It’s statements like the one below that will stop me from voting Liberal again any time soon.

“We in the Liberal party should be making this one of our tenets as we go forward . . . A lot of the things we think we’ve done for social equity aren’t done yet.”

Social equity? I highly doubt that. If that were the case, then it wouldn’t be socially acceptable to ridicule men and place the bulk of the blame for all societies ills at their feet.

Sure, there once was a case for affirmative action. Women did have a hard time breaking the glass ceiling. Jobs were menial and women were shut out of many fields. In Canada, this has changed.

There was nothing stopping me from choosing the career path I followed. Nothing stopped me from choosing to walk away from that field and shift to an entirely different one. Sure, there were trade-offs. I had to go back to school in my late 20′s after a near 10 year absence from academia. I had to juggle family, work and writing papers. I didn’t get to go on fancy vacations because I was busy paying tuition. I didn’t accept the offer of a higher paying job because I wanted the flexibility available in my current position. We took a long time to save up and purchase our small home and drive a beaten up ol’ chevy that’s desperately in need of being put out to pasture.

Through it all, I had a choice.

I wish to gawd that federal Liberals would learn to respect people’s choices and allow people to learn to accept responsibility for the results of their own choices. In my not so humble opinion, cradle to grave care is killing this country!

h/t: Dust my Broom

Authors’ Note: I not-so-secretly harbour the desire to stop working and spend my life enrolled in classes and learning about anything that strikes my fancy. I’d temper my permanent student status with volunteer time at local animal shelters. Of course, that’s assuming I don’t need to work – which I do – and that’s why it’s called a “fantasy life”. In essence, if I didn’t have to be in the workforce, I doubt I would be…I’d be in a library instead!

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2 Responses to “apples and oranges”

  1. It really bothers me when the pay equity based on equivilent education time is thrown around, for example a secretary and an auto mechanic (both 2 years college). The mechanic is paid more but there is nothing stopping women from fixing cars or planes. I work with lots of women who crank wrenches. In the apprentice trades there is a big diffence in pay between a plumber, electrician, and a hair stylist but the education and time required to be licenced is the same.

    I wish the government and special interest groups would stop comparing one job with another and just look at what this issue was when it started. Compare the salary of a woman with the man working beside her. You know what they are most likely identical.

  2. [...] apples and oranges [...]

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