Here are the most common myths about pay equity and how to dispel them.

 
Myth
You can’t determine and compare the values of different jobs… It’s like comparing apples and oranges.
 
Reality
There are well-established job evaluation methods that are both valid and non-sexist. They make it possible to compare different jobs, in much the same way you can compare the nutritional value of apples and oranges. Job evaluation methods consider four factors: skills, responsibilities, efforts and working conditions. Pay equity legislation would require that employers perform job evaluations and adjust wages accordingly.
 
 
Myth
Women’s jobs require less effort and offer better and safer working conditions than men’s jobs.
 
Reality
This is entirely false! For example, nurses face certain job risks, like daily exposure to viruses and bacteria. Fish plant workers need dexterity and must work quickly – physical efforts that are rarely recognized.
 
Besides, efforts and working conditions aren’t the only factors that determine salary. Skills and responsibilities are also considered.
 
Non-sexists job evaluation methods aim to eliminate the undervaluing of skills, responsibilities, efforts and working conditions associated with women’s jobs.
 
 
Myth
Women choose to work in low-paying jobs. We should encourage them to go into non-traditional job.
 
Reality
Women should have the same opportunities as men, and should be able to choose jobs they really want. We welcome any measures that can help make this possible. However, it should be recognized that many of the 70% of women who hold jobs that are traditionally or predominantly female love what they do! They chose their jobs, but did not choose to be underpaid!
 
If women leave these jobs to find better pay, who will replace them? Who will take care of children or the elderly? Jobs traditionally held by women are essential to both the well-being of our society, and to business performance. Why shouldn’t they be paid fair wages?
 
 
Myth
The government shouldn’t interfere in the economy.
 
Reality
If NB businesses are turning a profit by paying women less than men for work of equal value, than this injustice must be redressed. The government already interferes in the economy to protect its citizens by regulating labour standards as well as workplace health and safety.
 
The government also interferes by subsidizing industries. Why not do the same in the case of women’s rights? Why should it let market laws prevail when they violate the rights of half of workers?
 
By not interfering, the government sanctions the exploitation of women’s work and gender based discrimination.
 
 
Myth
Salaries are determined by the laws of supply and demand.
 
Reality
Salaries are determined by more than supply and demand. Lower pay for women's work have even been garanteed by legislation, in the past. For example, until 1965, New Brunswick women were even paid a lower minimum wage than men. Other discriminatory hiring and compensation practices have long been largely accepted.
 
Myth
Business owners should determine salaries so they can reward their best employee.
 
Reality
Pay equity involves re-evaluating pay practices. In order to eliminate pay discrimination, a new pay system is needed – one based on detailed job evaluations. That way, salaries will reflect the value of the work done instead of outdated stereotypes.
 
Women have been victims of wage discrimination for a long time. Since men were generally perceived as breadwinners, underpaying women seemed normal - even if it meant giving them a lower salary for doing the same job as a man.
 
It is now illegal to pay women less than men for the same work, and the minimum wage is the same for everyone. However, jobs predominantly held by women continue to be undervalued and underpaid. A pay equity law would prevent this.
 
 
Myth
Pay equity would be too costly for businesses.
 
Reality
The cost of pay equity for businesses is the cost of inequity for women. If capacity to pay is a valid excuse for businesses not to pay predominantly female jobs properly, why can’t women use the same excuse to pay less for what they buy?
 
 
Myth
A pay equity law would hurt businesses, especially small ones. They’d go under and employees would lose their jobs.
 
Reality
None of the Quebec and Ontario businesses that implemented pay equity programs failed. In Quebec, 70% of employers expended less than 1.5% of their total annual payroll on wage adjustments. Don’t forget, not ALL predominantly female jobs are underpaid.
 
Employers have always used this argument. Had we listened to them, we wouldn’t minimum wage, labour standards, maternity leave or workplace safety laws. Employers would still have the right to treat their employees like slaves!
 
 
Myth
Pay equity will hurt men.
 
Reality
A pay equity law prohibits businesses from reducing men’s wages in order to adjust women’s.
 
Furthermore, quite a few men work in traditionally or predominantly female jobs. They would benefit from a pay equity law just as much as women.
 
Far from hurting men, pay equity could very well help their family financially.
 
  
Myth
NB can’t be competitive if it grants pay equity to the female workforce.
 
Reality
Employees who feel treated fairly are more productive.
 
 
Myth
If we raise women’s salaries, everyone will have to pay more for the products and services they buy.
 
Reality
Women don’t pay less for products and services because they’re underpaid.
 
 
Myth
Education will encourage employers to adopt voluntary measures. A law is unnecessary.
 
Reality
Education wasn’t enough to reduce drinking and driving or smoking in public places. It took legislation. The same goes for pay equity. The New Brunswick government has been encouraging private employers to implement pay equity programs on a voluntary basis since 2005, but with no tangible results so far.
 
In Quebec, 82% of employers who implemented pay equity programs admitted they only did so because of the provincial Pay Equity Act [1]. 
 
 
Myth
Increasing the minimum wage would solve a large part of the problem.
 
Reality
Raising the minimum wage is good policy because it helps those who work for minimum wage. However, pay equity means paying women fair wages by recognizing the value of their work.
 
   
Myth
The government must implement pay equity in the public sector before it can adopt a pay equity law in the private sector.
 
Reality
Ensuring pay equity in both sectors at once is entirely legitimate. In fact, this approach was used in Quebec and Ontario, which ensured consistency between both sectors, and reduced salary discrimination for everyone!
 
 
 


 

 
[1] Quebec Pay Equity Commission – PEC, Léger Marketing Survey, October 2003.
[2] Akbari, A. 2004. The Gender Wage Gap in New Brunswick. Halifax : GPI Atlantic.
[3] Québec Pay Equity Commission. 2006. La Loi sur l’équité salariale : Un acquis à maintenir. Labour Minister’s Final Report on the implementation of the Pay Equity Act: Québec.

 

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