University of Waterloo must resolve the root causes of the pay gap between male and female faculty members: Editorial
Article and Photo from thestar.com
Monday August 8, 2016
As Yogi Berra once said: “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
This time it’s yet another study that, quelle surprise, found a wage gap between men and women. In this case it was female faculty members at the University of Waterloo who were found to be making less than their male counterparts. So much so that the university is going to spend $1 million to bump up the pay of 326 female faculty members by almost $3,000 each starting Sept. 1.
The Waterloo wage-gap review is the latest in a series of welcome efforts by Ontario institutions to deal with this troublingly persistent issue. Yet, as this case demonstrates, growing awareness doesn’t always entail adequate redress.
First, the proposed remedy doesn’t go far enough. The salary bump for Waterloo’s female profs will not be retroactive. “We can’t go back and change history, but we have ability to influence the future,” school president Feridun Hamdullahpur said. But that’s misleading. The university can make the raise retroactive as the University of Toronto did when it struck a landmark pay equity agreement in 2011 with the union representing its clerical and technical staff.
Second, the study was limited in scope to the salary data; researchers were precluded from considering the root causes of the bias. That’s short-sighted. As Aimee Morrison, an associate professor at the university pointed out, not attacking the source of the pay gap means “it keeps reproducing itself.” Indeed, a previous review conducted by Waterloo in 2008 also found female faculty members were paid less than their male counterparts. The fixes imposed at the time clearly didn’t stick.
Women in Ontario still make only 70.6 cents for every dollar a man earns, according to the latest StatsCan data. For decades, groups as diverse as the Equal Pay Coalition, Catalyst, think-tanks and banks have studied the wage gap, and decried it, without much effect. In the late 1980s Ontario even passed pay-equity legislation that was supposed to close the gap, but didn't.
The strange persistence of this disturbing inequity led Premier Kathleen Wynne to strike the Gender Wage Gap Steering Committee last fall. Perhaps its report, to be issued in the next few weeks, will finally pave the way to enduringly equal pay.
Until then, the University of Waterloo should do the right thing and make the wage bump for female faculty members retroactive. Or does it believe the work those women did was less valuable than that of their male colleagues?