More Than Just Rhetorical Questions

I am a professional working woman. My mother was, until her retirement, a professional working woman. My daughter will, I expect, be a professional working woman when she completes her education.

Issues related to the (in)equality of working women therefore are of particular significance to me.

Yesterday was Equal Pay Day in the U.S. This is a day that marks the point in time each year when women in the workforce will have earned enough to catch up to the earnings of men in the previous year. Did you get that?

In the U.S., women need to work for more than one year (in this case, 1 year, 3 months and 12 days) to earn the equivalent of what men earn in one year. Lest you are comforted thinking this is only an American problem, know that The Globe Mail reported that in Ontario, Equal Pay Day is going to be marked this year on April 19.

Why does Equal Pay Day even need to exist?

Kate McInturff of Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives tweeted a chart showing the relative earnings of women to men in each Canadian jurisdiction. In Manitoba, the statistics indicate women’s full-time, full year median earnings are 76% of mens. That number reminds me of the Canadian dollar. Effectively, the results is the same as if women in Manitoba were being paid in Canadian dollars while men are earning in U.S. dollars. That hardly seems fair.

There’s a provincial election campaign underway in Manitoba right now. This isn’t an issue any of the parties are talking about.

Why isn’t everyone talking about the gender gap in wages?

Meanwhile, last week, I read a post on Above The Law, Americans Rank Law Firms Dead Last In Commitment To Diversity and was more than a little saddened to read that “…among 11 major industries — law firms are perceived to have the lowest commitment to diversity when it comes to hiring and retention.” Researcher Dan McGinn commented on the results saying:

“The public simply doesn’t believe that law firms care much about diversity. Our experience is that people are pretty savvy. They see government, higher education, and the entertainment and hospitality industry as more receptive to hiring a diverse workforce.”

Of course this was a survey that reflects only public perception. The reality must be better, right? Not so. The post goes on to reference other ATL posts that illustrate the legal profession’s problem with diversity. The situation isn’t so much different in Canada, despite the rhetoric as confirmed by these reports from British Columbia and Ontario.

Why doesn’t the legal profession lead the pack in the area of diversity and inclusion?

I admit to self-interest in this regard. I want to earn in 365 days what my male counterparts earn in the same time. I want to be paid in 100-cent dollars for my work. I want to work in a diverse workplace that is representative not only in terms of gender, but also in terms of race and ethnicity. I want all these things for my daughter too.

Is that really too much to ask?

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