No women on panel considering gender pay gap

Canada Politics

[Left to right: Wayne Easter (Liberal, Malpeque); Raj Grewal (Liberal, Brampton East); Dan Albas (Conservative, Central Okanagan — Similkameen — Nicola); Pierre-Luc Dusseault (NDP, Sherbrooke). Parliament of Canada/parl.gc.ca]

The Federal Standing Committee on Finance heard from a variety of speakers about economic disparities, including gender inequality, Tuesday in Charlottetown.

The only problem? The committee didn't have any female members present.

Jenny Wright, executive director of the St. John’s Status of Women Council, posted a tweet Tuesday highlighting the irony of the fact that she was about to speak in front of an all-male government panel about income inequality for women.

 

She was speaking as part of the federal government’s pre-budget consultations ahead of the 2017 budget. 

"Any standing committee like this needs to go for gender parity," Wright told Yahoo Canada News after the presentation, adding the diversity of presentations called for a diversity of panelists. 

Other speakers included representatives for not just groups like hers but also small businesses and provincial governments, she said.

She addressed the committee members about the importance of using gender analysis tools when creating budgets, she said, and the need to include measures like national childcare programs and a national minimum wage in order to reduce gender wage disparity.

"I was urging them to listen to the World Health Organization and other organizations who have been calling on all governments to use gender assessment tools when they’re putting together budgets," Wright said. She was disappointed that none of the panel members had any follow-up questions or comments on the matter when given the chance to respond.

"Not a single one, and I think that is clearly because there wasn’t a woman," she said.

Jennifer O’Connell, the finance committee’s only regular female member, was unable to attend the meeting in Charlottetown, her legislative assistant Musa Mansuar confirmed to Yahoo Canada News.

"Jennifer travelled with the committee earlier this month to Kelowna, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Regina," Mansuar said. "She will still, however, be able to go over their brief as well as their remarks to the committee as the (consultation) process moves along."

Yahoo Canada News also reached out to committee chair Wayne Easter. He was not immediately available for comment. We will update the story if we receive a response. 

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The committee met on Persons Day, which celebrates the 1929 court decision that legally defined women as persons under law. It’s also one day after an Oxfam report highlighted the income inequality women still experience in Canada and around the world.

Canada is no exception. Of the 500 occupations Statistics Canada tracks in its monthly labour reports, Oxfam says women earn less than men in 469 – even when education levels and work performed are similar. Another Oxfam report released in March of this year found that women earn 72 per cent of what men do in Canada, and Statistics Canada data has the same finding. Women also perform more unpaid work than men, which affects their ability to participate in the paid workforce. And some groups of women are even further behind. Indigenous women actually experience a higher wage gap with higher education. 

Other organizations and governments have provided frameworks that can be used by our government to implement budgetary measures that can help reduce these disparities, Wright said.

"The policies have to ensure that women are less reliant on services and contributing more to the economy," she said. 

"What I got from that committee was absolute crickets. It was really frustrating to see that they couldn’t find a question for how economic policy relates to half the population."