Letters to the Editor, March 2018: 'Forcing equity is the only proven way'

Maclean's readers write in on our issue on the gender wage gap, and other stories from the last month

If you would like to respond or add new insight to a story or opinion piece in Maclean’s or on macleans.ca, send your letters to the editor to letters@macleans.ca. Letters should run no more than 250 words and should include your name and place of residence. If yours is chosen to be added to the month’s compilation of letters, it may be edited and/or condensed for clarity before being appended to this post.

Wage wrongs

Thank you so much for your pay equity cover (“Why do men make more money than women?” Work, March 2018). You brought forward an issue that gets little coverage. Equal pay for equal work is logical. Until we get this basic principle right, how do we tackle more difficult issues such as equal opportunities to lead businesses, play professional sports and drive innovation? I grew up with Maclean’s thanks to my mom, who was an avid fan. My son is now a reader. I hope my grandkids will read a very different article: “Gender makes no difference.”

Rebbeca Truax, Oro-Medonte, Ont.

The issue is that if an employer has one job available and has 50 male and 50 female equally qualified applicants, most of the time they will hire a suitable, qualified male for the job. Their internal bias will allow them to justify that most of the time. So, for 10 such jobs where statistically there should be five males and five females hired, there ends up being a skewed ratio. Forcing equity is the only proven way. Keeping salaries secret is also a problem. Given a male and a female hired at the same time for the same pay, the employer will give regular, good salary increases to the man in fear that he may leave, but the woman is not offered these increases because the employer doesn’t believe she will leave. Publish salaries and you will see a backlash. The BBC is a case in point.

Catherine Vey, New Minas, N.S.

I see that Maclean’s has bought into the myth of gender-based pay inequity in Canada. I do not doubt that this issue may be a reality in other countries, and undoubtedly in our own country in the past, but in 2018? Absolutely not. Based on my personal experience in the labour force, I have not seen any evidence of gender-based pay inequity in the past three decades. The methodology used to perpetuate this myth is based on statistical manipulation. To say that the average wage earned by all those of one gender is evidence of bias based solely on gender is nonsense. True inequity would exist if male and female workers doing the exact same job, at the exact same level, were paid differently based on gender only. If this exists, I have not seen the evidence to support it. I work for a federal government department, and I used the same methodology as those who believe in this pay-inequity fiction, and the numbers show that in my office women earn 26.3 per cent more than men. (I compared the average salary of male employees to that of female employees, since this is all the analysis required, right?) I also compared my personal situation with the female manager. We have equal work experience and equal education, yet she earns double my salary. Clearly, the only reason can be gender, and thus a bias exists favouring one over the other. Of course, I don’t believe this, since it is easily refuted. Obviously, I know there are other factors, the most obvious one being that my manager is in a higher classification than me, with a higher designated salary. Any employee in her, or my, position would earn the salary set for that position, and gender doesn’t play a part in this at all. Maclean’s is being disingenuous by perpetuating this pay inequity myth. Investigative journalism implies researching facts before assuming causality. Drawing simplistic conclusions that are misleading is not good journalism, it is pushing an agenda.

Paul Nickson, Fredericton

All the stories about the wage gap between women and men were interesting. I hope more people will see that the real issue is the societal problem of undervaluing women. People who are perceived as less valuable are fair game for any kind of discrimination, and this must be addressed if any kind of equity is to be achieved.

Eleanor Abra, Ottawa

Why charge men 26 per cent more for Maclean’s? After controlling for hourly wages, occupation, education, seniority, geographical location and union status, there’s still an eight per cent difference in average wages between men and women. So, let’s call eight per cent the real inequality. If Maclean’s is going to filter the numbers on the basis of race, then why not charge more for white women and less for racialized men, who earn about 90 cents for every dollar earned by white women? These articles could also have focused more on the gap in pay between older men and younger men. It is, after all, why most complaints about feminism are coming from younger men. When it comes to salaries, men tend to be greedier than women. For men, social status seems to go hand in hand with rates of pay, and remuneration tends to be disproportionately higher for executive, upper-management and supervisory positions. For instance, although one-third of medical specialists in Ontario are women, they account for only four per cent of the billing total of the top 500 physicians. This pattern repeats itself in many fields. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial for society to see a reduced disparity in wage rates? We should not be clamouring for women to make as much as those greedy men. Rather, we should be fighting to have those exorbitant male salaries reduced. Although the number of women in the workforce has increased dramatically over the past 30 years, most of those gains have been in the service sector. What would the gender wage gap look like if the top and bottom 10 percent didn’t skew the equation?

Stan Lerner, Toronto

Your coverage of the pay gap between men and women doesn’t mention another huge problem: the significantly lower wage that women earn affects them forever. The current gap affects women’s lives right now; the resulting lower amount accumulated for CPP will affect them from the minute they start to collect CPP until they die. This will cost all Canadians, in the years to come, for GIS and other payments for destitute senior women.

Jeanne Gonnason, Calgary

Mid-sized cities

Reading Jennifer Keesmaat’s editorial filled me with longing for the Toronto days when I had acceded to higher housing prices in exchange for the health and enjoyment of a walkability score of over 90 per cent and a closeness to shopping areas, hospitals and the workplace (“Stuck in the Middle,” Urban Life, March 2018). Now returned to my hometown of Windsor, Ont., after a hiatus of 40 years, I am witnessing the depreciation in lifestyle with a walkability score of around 60 per cent in a city quite heavily “stuck on a suburban growth model,” to quote the writer. True, Windsor’s prosperity is based on the automotive industry, but that surely should not mean that the only focus for transportation is the almighty car! Ours, too, is a combination of expanding suburbs and a downtown that is being gutted. There is even less wisdom for this sort of urban planning because there has been no population growth, and hence no critical mass, since the last time I lived here. Every city requires vision and leadership, and I despair that it will ever happen here when we have a business-oriented city council with one councillor who stated that “urban sprawl is the way of the future.” Further to this madness, there is a small team of individuals with an ill-conceived plan to create a suburban community on an existing bean field next to our distant airport, which will include a new P3 mega-hospital. This project will eviscerate our existing medical community downtown and remove 24-hour medical care from those who need it most: the elderly, people without cars and the chronically ill. I, too, would like to see my hometown adopt the Portland model Keesmaat describes, where our economy surges due to the instalment of bike lanes, more mass transit and less driving, and a gleaming new state-of-the-art mega-hospital well within Windsor’s city limits.

Brenda Weeks-Clarke, Windsor

The mother trap?

It’s not surprising, really, that some women wish they hadn’t had kids (“I regret having children,” Society, February 2018). Look at how our society rewards mothers for raising the next tax-paying generation. First, it takes two incomes to even think of having kids. Then women sacrifice their careers and working hours to have kids. Not many moms can do both. Working part-time is the norm. Women do the bulk of the work in raising their kids, which is what’s expected of them. The emotional toll alone is huge: you automatically come second in whatever you want in life. The government gives you a much-reduced children’s bonus. If you’ve had more than one child, you have taken substantial time off work, and mostly haven’t been compensated for it. Child care was not available for many of us. That means that by the time you get to retirement age, you have only the most minimal, below-poverty pension to fall back on. Women are the neediest of seniors. If they’ve separated from their partners because of the stress of raising kids, they are even worse off. Is it any wonder that women are thinking twice about parenthood? Is it any wonder that the birthrate is falling? Having kids is hugely expensive in a world where precarious work has become the standard. Everyone wants to do it well, but women’s futures are put in jeopardy by having kids.

M. Schooff, Chatham, Ont.

Rethinking manhood

I read Scott Gilmore’s article on gender balance with interest (“Want men to support feminism? Stop treating them like the problem,” macleans.ca, Feb. 28). And although I agree with much of his argument, there remains far too many women—educated women, uneducated women, corporate types, political types, mother types, student types—who tell a common story about abuse and marginalization and objectification. I applaud those men whom Gilmore profiles: the men who fight for gender equality and balance, the men who believe in parity, the men who do not misuse. But, until the hand that wishes to be held and not finger wagged stops searching for ways to exploit and abuse, I am afraid the gender pain will continue. It is a journey. I have faith that in time we will arrive.

Catherine Hammill, Kincardine, Ont.

I wanted to register a concern over Scott Gilmore’s latest article on men and feminism. The article seems to lean quite a bit of its argument on an inaccurate definition of “toxic masculinity”—essentially, that it means that all men are toxic rather than that society has many unfair expectations for men to conform to that are harmful to both men and women as individuals and societally, like men should never cry, for example.) I think that Gilmore is trying to argue that misandry should not be confused with feminism (true!) and that men and women should endeavour to work together as allies (also true!) but that by falling for an inaccurate and actually really harmful interpretation of what the term “toxic masculinity” means he is accidentally perpetuating this tension and misinformation.

Muriel Rowe

The boon of books

Brian Bethune says very eloquently, “For two centuries, libraries have been vital public institutions and crucial factors in socio-economic advancement—‘bastions of democracy’ ” (“Coding, 3D printers. And books.” Libraries, February 2018). And yet the Ford brothers, Rob and Doug, during their time at Toronto City Council, campaigned to close several Toronto libraries, stating that they were unnecessary and too expensive to fund. When challenged by none other than Margaret Atwood, Doug Ford had no idea who she was. Let’s remember this as he throws his hat into Ontario provincial politics.

Meg Hoffman, Kitchener, Ont.

Indigenous kids in care

There are flaws in the article about First Nations kids in care (“Fighting foster care,” Indigenous Peoples, February 2018). First, the work of social workers in protecting kids in dangerous situations is not adequately acknowledged. Second, Manitoba’s child-welfare agencies dealing with Indigenous children are Indigenous-run. This should be stated amid the accusations that Indigenous kids are losing their culture. Third, a question: do caring, competent parents have their children apprehended? Please investigate, because your example of “Jen” is problematic. She was in a “violent” relationship, had a “stint of homelessness” and was identified as a “high-risk parent.” Now she is having—in secret—her eighth child. Her story does not showcase responsible parenting. Our hearts go out to parents and children in distress. The situation is complicated; comprehensive reporting is needed.

David McConkey, Brandon, Man.

A proportional response

The claim that a system like proportional representation will let extremists into government (“What the Greens really want”, March 2018) has always rung false to me, mostly because I don’t see any evidence that our current system of voting is any better at preventing this. All first past the post does is make it easier for politicians to hide extremists within their own party, and give extremists who get elected under the banner of a mainstream party a fig leaf of respectability (which makes it more likely that their ideas will be taken seriously). Proportional representation will simply make divisions that already exist in our society and our political landscape more transparent. That’s bad for backroom dealers like Bill Tieleman who want their party to have all the power—but it’s good for democracy.

Carl Sack, Surrey, B.C.

In defence of deficits

Deficits in good times and bad can often be justified (“Why we have deficits—in good times and bad,” macleans.ca, Feb. 28). Canada usually has a trade deficit which means we are buying more abroad than foreigners are buying here. That results in a dip in domestic spending. In addition, our own households and businesses often save some of their earnings, resulting in another dip. If government doesn’t spend to compensate then output doesn’t get sold, people are laid off, and the economy spirals downwards. Furthermore, the federal government owns a central bank, which means it has access to funds whenever needed. In its 2014 Annual Report, the Bank of Canada notes it has “the power and operational ability to create Canadian-dollar liquidity in unlimited amounts at any time.” And that explains another reason why the federal government must make transfers that allow the provinces to provide vital services without harsh taxes or unsustainable debt: the provinces do not own central banks and do not have similar access to funds.

Larry Kazdan, Vancouver, B.C.

The India trip’s travellers should have been about portfolio, not partisanship

Trudeau’s costumes in his visit to India (“Trudeau in the real world,” Paul Wells, Feb. 22) were harmless buffoonery. But what really matters is that ministers who should have been on the delegation were not there, and vice versa. Agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay was missing, even though the matter of export of prairie-grown pulses and peas to India needs urgent resolution. Indian PM Modi, in his welcome address, was almost begging for an energy deal between the two countries, but energy minister Jim Carr was absent. On the other hand, there were no pressing infrastructure issues, but Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi made the scene; Harjit Sajjan tagged along, even though Canada and India operate in two entirely different spheres when it comes to defence. What pressing issues of parliamentary procedures exist between the two countries that required the presence of Bardish Chagger? And a Vancouver-based chef was flown at government expense to India to cook Indian food for Indian guests in Delhi—carrying coal to Newcastle, you may say. It was a gross over-representation of that segment of Canada’s population which has roots among the Sikhs in Punjab, and a cynic might say that the purpose of the whole trip was to shore up Liberal support in ridings with a strong Sikh presence. In that case, the bill—including the chef’s expense account—should be sent to the Liberal Party.

Nash Soonawala, Winnipeg, Man.

Freeing free speech

To Lindsay Shepherd (“Why I invited Faith Goldy to Laurier”, Mar. 22): Our freedom to speak, no matter how vile or ignorant the content, means that within prescribed limits we will not be arrested or silenced by our government and its legislative, judiciary, and executive branches. Period. I am under no obligation as a citizen to be quiet or polite to a person who profits from racist hate and is actively engaged in self-promotion.

You can have open academic discussions without providing a platform. You can debate the merits or evils of a viewpoint without the implicit endorsement of an invitation and a microphone. You can learn the difference between right and wrong without rolling out the red carpet for Ms. Wrong and gifting her with a de facto place of honour above everyone else in the room. Academic freedom is not automatically above and beyond ethical judgment; instead of guiding students to that judgment, you have chosen to discard it as if an open mind requires a blank slate and an empty head.

Robert Williamson, Aurora, Ont.