Saturday, April 4 is Equal Pay Day in Canada. It’s yet another event we’ll be marking from a distance due to the coronavirus pandemic, but just because we can’t march together doesn’t mean our voices are any quieter about the gender pay gap (which, at the rate things are going, won't closed in Canada for another 164 years, smh).
If anything, COVID-19 has highlighted the fact that advocacy for women’s economic equality is more important now than ever. Four out of five healthcare workers identify as women, not to mention they are on the frontlines of other industries affected by this global health crisis, such as retail and childcare. "Without women’s work, our economy doesn’t work, and it’s never been more clear than now," says Fay Faraday, co-chair for the Ontario Equal Pay Coalition.
Here's what you need to know about Equal Pay Day and how you can help close the gender pay gap.
What Is Equal Pay Day?
Equal Pay Day is the average of how many extra days into the new year that women would have to work in order to earn as much as men did in the previous year. So, April 4 highlights how Canadian women have worked over three months into the year to earn what men did in 12 months. On average, full-time working women make about $0.87 cents for every dollar that men make, and that gap is even wider for women belonging to marginalized groups.
According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF), Indigenous women make $0.65 for every dollar, women living with a disability earn $0.54, racialized women make $0.67, and women who are new to Canada make $0.71 compare to men who are also new to Canada. Notably, notes Andrea Gunraj, vice-president of public engagement for CFW, "[these figures] don’t reflect all the different ways women could be marginalized in the workforce," she says. "Women are more likely to be underemployed, doing unpaid work for a lot of what they do or segregated into labour that’s not paid as well.”
How is COVID-19 Affecting Women & Work?
The full fallout is still unknown, but "from the evidence around the world... we know COVID-19 is going to lead to more unpaid caregiving work for women, more economic stress, potentially more gender-based violence particularly domestic violence in home situations, and less access to relevant services," says Gunraj. "All these things added together, we worry it might worsen the pay gap and it might very well set women back in terms of their economic wellbeing in a broad sense." Especially as jobs get more and more scare in the inevitable recession — 2.1 million Canadians have applied for employment insurance since March 15.
How Can I Get Involved?
The Ontario Equal Pay Coalition, which hosts a rally every year, is taking its message online. You can sign up to attend its virtual, interactive rally, which will take place between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. on April 4, and features speakers from coast-to-coast — from Marie Clarke Walker from the Canadian Labour Congress to Aja Mason from the Yukon Status of Women Council. Participants are asked to wear red in solidarity and can engage with each other through webcam and interactive polls.
If you wish to address the gendered impact of COVID-19, you can donate to the Canadian Women’s Foundation Tireless Together Fund, which supports cross-Canada programs to reduce gendered poverty and end gender-based violence.