This month, Maclean’s has created two covers with two different prices—one at $8.81, the other at our regular price of $6.99—to reflect the 26 per cent gap between full-time wages paid to men and women in Canada.
It’s a cheeky way to draw attention to a gap that has barely budged in decades, but we’re not the first to do this.
In 2016, a group of students at the University of Queensland in Australia put on a bake sale. They called it the Gender Pay Gap Bake Sale, and they priced their cupcakes higher for men than women to illustrate Australia’s pay equity gap. The fierce social media backlash (“Kill all women” and “Females are f–king scum, they should be put down as babies” and “I want to rape these feminist c–ts with their f–king baked goods”) was so horrific it made international headlines. When we discussed the story during our Maclean’s news meeting at the time, we wondered what would happen if we tried it here in Canada.
So let’s see, shall we? After years of stasis, pay equity is having its moment as the next beat in the cadence of the #MeToo movement. Our hope is that these dual covers stir the kind of urgent conversation here that is already happening elsewhere around the world.
In England, Carrie Gracie, the BBC’s China editor, resigned earlier this year when her pay was revealed to be at least 50 per cent less than her two male counterparts, saying, “My managers had yet again judged that women’s work was worth much less than men’s.” #istandwithcarrie trended on Twitter.
In Iceland, after women walked out of work at precisely 2:38 p.m.—a full workday minus 30 per cent, to illustrate the pay gap there—the country enacted a new law that makes it mandatory for companies with 25 or more employees to show they provide equal pay.
WATCH: Canadian women on the gender pay gap, and how we can fix it
Glaring pay inequality in Hollywood has also stoked outrage—from Michelle Williams being paid 1,500 times less than co-star Mark Wahlberg to reshoot portions of All the Money in the World, to Grey’s Anatomy actress Ellen Pompeo revealing how she negotiated to become the highest-earning actress on TV. “If we’re going to invoke change,” Pompeo said, “that has to be part of it.”
In Canada, estimates for the pay equity gap range from eight per cent to as high as 50 per cent, depending on what you’re measuring (we went with 26 per cent for the cover as that Statistics Canada number compares full-time working women with full-time working men, a broad comparison capturing most workers in Canada). Important pay equity cases are being brought forward by women at Canada Post and the Ontario Provincial Police, and this year, the federal government promises to introduce long-awaited pay equity legislation for federally regulated industries.
Of course, setting a two-tiered magazine price for men and women reduces the complexity of gender at a time when society is only beginning to understand and embrace it. (Readers can of course choose to pay whichever cover price they want.) Research into the transgender pay gap is just beginning, but we know the gap is largest for women of colour and Indigenous women. With that in mind, the $1.82 differential in our cover prices this month is being donated to those for whom the pay gap is most extreme.
Last year, Indspire, an Indigenous-led charity that invests in Indigenous education, donated almost $12 million through 3,764 scholarships and bursaries to Indigenous students across Canada. It has agreed to direct Maclean’s readers’ contributions toward a scholarship for an Indigenous woman.
In the unknowable years that sit between the wage inequity of now and the moment that young woman enters the workforce, quite possibly the fiscal roots of the power imbalance will have finally been shaken. Can she hope to earn the same wage as the man sitting one desk over?
She will deserve nothing less.