Gender wage gap still an issue says Wilfrid Laurier professor

Gender wage gap is still part of the discussion to achieve gender equity. It turns out, it's not that easy to explain. Wilfrid Laurier economics professor, Tammy Schirle, explains why gender wage gap is still an issue.

Tammy Schirle says it may be more of an opportunity gap that needs to be addressed

People carry bags reading 'equal pay day' during a protest a day before International Women's Day, in Bern, Switzerland on March 7, 2015. (Ruben Sprich/Reuters)

Although the wage gap between male and female earners is still seen as an obstacle to achieving gender equality, a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University believes an opportunity gap may be what needs to be addressed.

"The problem that we have now is that we have men and women who tend to start on equal footing but end up in very different career paths," said economics professor Tammy Schirle. "As they go down those career paths, on average, they are going to be earning two different amounts."

She said there are many things that shape a woman's career path, including the challenge to balance work and family, subtle work place biases in hiring and promoting, and even the different jobs children consider as plausible careers.

Building Imagination

Schirle said that while society has made some positive changes to improve outcomes for women, there is still a lot that can be done to achieve gender equity.

"When I sit down with policy folks, I start to open the income tax act and start reading off sections that you can start amending to support women's independence in the labour market," she said.

She also challenges people to build imagination. She recalls her daughter coming home from school one day angry about how a classmate had told her that girls don't like super heroes.

"My concern is with her classmate who might not have that imagination to envision a woman as an electrician or a welder or a supervisor at a construction site," she said. "Just as important, can they imagine a man being the primary caregiver for a child or a receptionist or a nurse?"

She said that kind of imagination within younger generations is key to achieving gender equity for both men and women.