Do Equal Wages Really Equal Equality in the Labour Force?

In an article entitled, “Gender equality bake sale causes stir at Utah high school” by Randall Carlisele, a student run bake sale, intended to raise awareness around gender inequality, is discussed. At the bake sale, boys were required to pay more for a cookie than girls were required to pay. This is an example of how equality in the workforce is often equated to equal pay, which is an over simplification of the issue. Equal pay for equal work will not equate to equality in the labour force because not everyone is represented in the labour force equally.

For a female single parent the likelihood of entering poverty increases by 5.6 times (Finnie and Sweetman cited in Gadalla, 234). In Canada and the U.S., it was reported that, for women under 35 years old, the wage gap between mothers and women without children is greater than the gap between men and women (Zhang 2009; Crittenden 2001 as cited in Baker, 50). This shows that there are other wage gaps that an equalization of men’s and women’s wages will not solve. This suggests that there are barriers within the labour force affecting the socio-economic status of particular bodies.

In Canada, a heterosexual male, a wife and their biological children make up the nuclear family, which creates a gender binary based on the male bread-winner and the wife care-giver and is the ideal family structure (Krull, 11). Although our families have become more diverse, it would seem that our ideas of paid work and unpaid work (care giving) remain gendered.

Of women aged 25-44 years old, who were employed part-time, 38% said that they were working part-time because they were caring for children or had other family responsibilities. (Townsend cited in Gadalla, 234). With the rising cost of child-care in Canada, it is easy to imagine that some women are working part-time because they cannot afford the cost of day-care, while others are working part-time to be at home with their children to live up to the “Good Mother” image or a combination of the two. Even if women with children had wages equal to men, this would still not give them overall incomes equal to that of their male counter-parts because their labour force participation is limited. More interestingly, there was bias among employers and women often suffer from the “Motherhood Penalty”(Townsend cited in Gadalla, 234). Pregnant women and mothers are perceived as less committed and qualified (Cornell,Bernard, and Paik 2007 as cited in Baker, 50). This stigma can prevent women with children from obtaining employment and it can effect their career advancement if they are overlooked for a promotion.

Looking further at the social stratification of work it becomes evident that in some cases, race impacts labour force participation. A study suggested that unemployment was 95% higher for Western Asian and Arab minorities, 73% higher for Black minorities, and 21% for Chinese minorities, than the White majority (Sheila Block and Grace-Edward Galabuzi 7). Although we have moved towards a more diverse workforce, particular bodies are being denied access to the labour force. This could be because racialization has influenced our understandings of how we know these bodies are now present in the work force. The hijab has been tied to misogyny and being a tool to hide bruises from abuse (Crosby 53). This can create an image of Muslim men as aggressive and lacking respect for women. Popular media produces images of Black men as hyper-sexed criminals (Aulette and Wittner 107). Both of these images can produce images of Black and Muslim women as submissive. Thinking of the corporate world, these images of Black and Muslim bodies would not fit well within an organization in which methodical negotiation is a means of doing business. Employers may be denying access to particular racialization bodies because of how they know these bodies.

For racialized minorities that are able to find employment with an equal opportunity employer, this does not always mean equal opportunity. A 2003 study of the workplace conducted by Queen’s University shows that minorities were viewed as the “other”, as being hired to meet a quota and not based on merit and called for action in order to reduce complaints of racism (Frances Henry 9). The report indicated that retention among minorities was a problem (Frances Henry 2). Equal opportunity employment does not necessarily create a work climate that is accepting of members of minority groups. These environments would make it more challenging for minority members to advance their career within an organization and possibly with others. Similar to women who take maternity leave to have children, it is possible that any disruption in employment can have a negative effect.

Power structures, such as government bodies, understand a single mother’s need to increase their labour force participation, but do little to shift the responsibility of caring for children from mothers. The government has committed to facilitating women’s participation in the labour force (Cool, 3); however, remains focused on child development (Jenson and Mahon, 8). Moreover, the government offers incentives for organizations adopting a more diverse labour force; however, does nothing to ensure the retention of these employees.

Equality in the labour force will not be achieved by looking at wages alone. Equal opportunity for everyone must be taken into consideration in conversations about equality in the labour force if we are to ever achieve it.


Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004. Print.

Baker, Maureen.“Maternal Employment, Childcare, and Public Policy.” A Life in Balance? Reopening the Family-Work Debate. 47-63 in Vancouver, BC: UBC Press. 2011. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Block, Sheila. Canada’s Colour Coded Labour Market the Gap for Racialized Workers. Ottawa, Ont.: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives = Centre Canadien De Politiques Alternatives, 2011. Web. <;.

Carlisele, Randall. “Gender Equality Bake Sale Causes Stir at Utah High School.” Good4Utah. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2015. <;.

Crosby, Emily. “Faux Feminism: France’s Veil Ban as Orientalism”. Journal Of International Women’s Studies. 15:46-60. 2014. Web. 7 Dec. 2014

Cool, Julie. “Child Care in Canada: The Federal Role.” Parliament of Canada. 2007. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. (

Gadalla, Tahany M. “Gender Differences in Poverty Rates After Marital Dissolution: A Longitudinal Study.” Journal of Divorce and Remarriage 49(3-4):225-238. 2008. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Jenson, Jane and Rianne Mahon.“Bringing Cities to the Table: Child Care and Intergovernmental Relations.” 2002.Web. 10 Apr. 2015.


Krull, Catherine. “Destabilizing the Nuclear Family Ideal: Thinking Beyond Essentialisms, Universalisms, and Binaries.” A Life in Balance? Reopening the Family-Work Debate 11-46. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press. 2011. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Henry, Frances, Dr. Systemic Racism Towards Faculty of Colour and Aboriginal Faculty at Queen’s University (n.d.): n. pag. Apr. 2004. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.


3 thoughts on “Do Equal Wages Really Equal Equality in the Labour Force?

  1. I think that you touched on many important points that some people do not take into consideration. I truly did not believe there was such unequal labour divisions for women present still today, but there surely is and taking into consideration the intersecting qualities of race and culture it can be extremely difficult for so many women. I agree with you and believe that the government needs to take further action to ensure that the work force is inclusive an equal, rather than just making it an obligation for companies to hire certain percentages of women or people of colour. I also think it is important to note just how difficult it may be for women of colour or members of the LGBTQ community to even approach the work force when they are faced with discrimination.


  2. When i hear about equality in the work force, I to am at fault for strictly thinking about equal pay when there are so many different senses of the word equality in the work forces. Its so hard to think about how women are still being thought of as not dedicated just because they have a family to look after. Unsure of how similar the numbers are, but now a days, men too take leave after their child is born to take care of their family, yet they are not seen as any less dedicated to their work. Especially since family roles are necessarily as gendered as they were some time ago (even though they still are in most cases). While girls were always the ones thought to only dream of a family growing up, are dreaming of careers in the work force, and some boys are dreaming of a family. On top of equality in the work force, its scary to think that once you have a family how hard it may be to actually go back to work because of obsticals like daycare that is continuously increasing in price. How are people expected to go to work when they have no one to watch the kids?


  3. I enjoyed how you did not just look at the inequality of pay between males and females, but also examined the intersectionality of unequal pay and unemployment. I feel as though many people are aware of the inequality between males and females, but not how race can also play a part in employment and how you are payed. Even though there is an increasing awareness of the inequality present, such as April 15th being equal pay day (Porter), we still have a long way to go before this is achieved for women of all races.

    Works Cited
    Porter, Jane. ‘Today Is Equal Pay Day: How Can We Finally Close The Gender Wage Gap?’. Fast Company. N. p., 2015. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.


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