People cast their shadows on the sidewalks as they make their way home after work in downtown Toronto on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

People cast their shadows on the sidewalks as they make their way home after work in downtown Toronto on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Motherhood, social norms behind gender wage gap in Canada: federal docs

Department of Finance memo suggests several reasons why progress has largely stalled since 1990s

An internal government analysis concludes motherhood and the societal expectations that come with it are major factors in Canada’s wage gap between men and women.

“Since gendered expectations and social norms are clearly important factors in the gender wage gap, closing the gender gap will require broad societal changes,” says the Aug. 28 briefing note prepared for Paul Rochon, the deputy minister of finance.

The memo from the federal Department of Finance for its most senior permanent official outlines several reasons why progress on levelling the income-earning playing field between men and women in Canada has remained largely stalled since the 1990s, and suggests future efforts, including public policy, should focus on those areas.

The analysis shows that while Canadian women now achieve higher levels of education than men, and pursue high-earning careers in greater numbers, the fact that women bear children — and bear the bulk of responsibility to raise them — remains a factor in lower pay.

So do social norms that expect women to prioritize family life, which the memo suggests can also get in the way of career advancement.

“Because of social norms, women take on a greater share of household and familial responsibilities, which conflicts with paid work responsibilities,” said the memo, which The Canadian Press obtained through the Access to Information Act.

The briefing note says the responsibilities associated with motherhood play an especially important role in the wage gap.

READ MORE: As gender wage gap drops 5.5%, Stats Canada unable to explain why it remains

“Lack of workforce continuity and loss of human capital have negative consequences for women’s labour market outcomes,” says the memo, adding that the gender wage gap is roughly halved for women who do not have children.

“Expectations that women will leave work for a more extended period than men to take on child-rearing responsibilities may also explain the lower probability of being hired and lower wages,” it says.

The memo notes that advancing gender equality has been a top priority of the Liberal government.

That includes requiring the federal budget to undergo a gender-based analysis, which involves thinking about how measures might affect men and women, or boys and girls, in different ways, while taking into account other factors such as income, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation.

“This strategy helps track developments and minimize the negative effects of policy decisions on gender equality,” the memo says.

“However, improving gender equality will ultimately require identifying and tackling the key factors that sustain gender gaps.”

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Darrel McLeod won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction in 2018 for his first book, Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age. His newly-released memoir, Peyakow: Reclaiming Cree Dignity, follows as a sequel. (Black Press Media file)
Critically acclaimed Sooke author releases new memoir

Peyakow follows as a sequel to Darrel McLeod’s first book, Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Lawsuit filed last summer accused Barney Williams of verbal abuse

Downed trees account for the majority of power outages, according to BC Hydro, which plans to spend more money on tree pruning and hazardous tree removal in coming years in the face of changing weather and growing patterns caused by climate change. (Photo courtesy of the City of Langford)
BC Hydro says safety guides tree removal policy

Crown corporation says it will work with property owners wherever possible

(Photo by Mojpe/Pixabay)
Canadian kids extracting record amount from Tooth Fairy

Our neighbours in the U.S. receive slightly less from Tooth Fairy visits

Capital Regional District headquarters entrance on Fisgard Street in Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria regional services get a $575,000 boost from Safe Restart Grant

CRD allocates latest grants to help service areas affected by pandemic challenges

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark. (Black Press Media files)
Former B.C. premier to testify at money laundering hearing today

Attorney General David Eby has been added to the witness list as well

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. to table budget that’s expected to deal with COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Robinson released a fiscal update last December that said the impact of the pandemic on B.C.’s economy was uncertain

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo) plays the drum while singing the Nuu-chah-nulth song on the court steps in Vancouver In a picture from April 2018. Photo credit, Melody Charlie.
Five western Vancouver Island First Nations celebrate legal fishing victory

Court ruling confirms Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights in case dating back to 2003

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Most Read