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Working women after the war

The Story

Should women get the same wages as men? That's the question tackled in this excerpt from a spirited radio debate about "the fairer sex" in the workplace. A female Teamster wonders why women were applauded for keeping factories running during the war and then handed substandard pay in peacetime. A male corporate lawyer allows that there are some jobs where women excel - tedious tasks, for example. A female executive says employers may have a point because it costs more to employ women. For example, their uniforms need to be "fussier", company washrooms need to be "brushed up" and women take rest breaks while their male colleagues continue to toil. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Public Forum
Broadcast Date: Jan. 4, 1951
Guest(s): Brida Gray, J.C. Puddington, E.M. Stonelake, Rose Turlin
Host: Neil Morrison
Duration: 6:41
Photo: National Archives of Canada PA-193039

Did You know?

• In this clip, the speakers are, in order:
- Neil Morrison, moderator and CBC host
- Brida Gray, president of Local 4010 of the United Steelworkers of America
- Mrs. E.M. Stonelake, personnel manager for drug company Burroughs Wellcome
- Mr. J.C. Puddington, lawyer for Canadian Marconi Co.
- Rose Turlin, director of a women's press publishing house in New York.

• In 1941, when the government recognized the shortage of male civilian workers, the number of working women was pegged at 867,000. A government campaign to get women into factories and offices boosted the tally to more than one million by 1944. One-quarter of them worked in war-related industries such as munitions factories.

• During the war, almost 50,000 women enlisted in the Women's Services of the Armed Forces. About 20,000 of them were in the Canadian Women's Auxiliary Corps (CWAC). The military women, who were given non-combat jobs, originally earned two-thirds as much as male soldiers. In 1943, the government increased their salaries to 80 per cent of those of men holding the equivalent rank.

• Toronto Star columnist Lotta Dempsey hailed the ceremonial launching of a warship built by female workers as "... the great and final stage of the movement of women into industry ... on a complete equality with men."

• The prediction turned out to be overly optimistic. After the war, working women faced tremendous pressure to return to the hearth.

• The ranks of working women dropped quickly as men returned home from the war. The number didn't climb back up to the 1945 level of more than one million female workers until 1966.

• In 1951, Ontario became the first province to pass a law demanding that women receive equal pay for equal work. But the law was rarely applied because women were still largely relegated to professions, such as child care, nursing and secretarial work, where they had few male colleagues.

• According to a Statistics Canada survey in 2001, the average annual salary for a full-time female worker was $36,000 compared to $50,500 for men. That means the average woman made 71 per cent as much as the average man.



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