Strategy needed to address wage gap, says Cathy Bennett

Strategy needed to address wage gap, says Cathy Bennett

Newfoundland and Labrador's minister responsible for the status of women says she's proud that all members of the House of Assembly voted in favour of pay equity, and now it's time to figure out what can be done and how soon.

On Wednesday, all 40 MHAs gave unanimous support to an NDP private member's motion to urge the provincial government to start the process for pay equity legislation.

Cathy Bennett, who is also the province's finance minister, says there's no arguing that a wage gap exists, and it's time for the community as a whole to have a discussion "honestly and frankly" about why.

"The reality is we have labour segmentation where women typically work one type of position and men typically work another type of position," said Bennett.

"We still sadly have bias and discrimination in workplaces that affects how women are treated and also how women are remunerated."

Bennett said there is also an over-representation of women working part-time jobs, and a lot of that boils down to child care, family care and unpaid work, as well as a lack of women in senior leadership roles.

Implementing full-day kindergarten is a way to ensure women who are primary caregivers are better able to pursue full-time employment, she said.

Equal pay for work of equal value

A large part of coming up with pay equity legislation is establishing guidelines for equal pay for work of equal value, rather than equal pay for equal work, Bennett said.

The motion approved yesterday was broad, she said, and it's now the job of government to figure out what can be resolved quickly, and what will require a longer look.

"But I'm confident and proud that yesterday all 40 members in the House — really proud of my caucus and our premier, Dwight Ball — for standing and saying that it's an important issue that we have to address," she told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

"Everybody I think in the House of Assembly made it clear yesterday that having the gap that we currently have in Newfoundland and Labrador is something that none of us want to see continue."

Bennett is going to New York to attend the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, on the theme of women's economic empowerment in the changing world of work.

She said women in other parts of the world don't even dream about some of the things available to women in Canada, and she said there is a need to continue to make provocative changes and "push the agenda on women's issues."