Equal pay is everyone’s business: all engaged in advancing women’s economic empowerment

29 Mar 2022

The Government of Canada organized a virtual side event on March 22, 2022, in collaboration with the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC), and co-sponsored by the United Kingdom, during the 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66).

The side event focused on the key role that governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations all have to play in order to address the gender pay gap. Opening remarks were delivered by the Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr., Minister of Labour, Government of Canada. Minister O’Regan outlined the main elements of Canada’s Pay Equity Act and stated that “when Canadian women can count on equal pay for work of equal value, our economy will be stronger. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart move from a macroeconomic perspective”. Canada’s Federal Pay Equity Commissioner took the floor at the end of the event to underline that Canada’s Pay Equity Act was based on three pillars– education, enforcement/compliance, and dispute resolution– that are all instrumental in advancing pay equity.

Representatives from governments (New Zealand, United States, United Kingdom), employers’ (Barbados Employers Confederation) and workers’organizations (Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)) took part in a panel discussion. They highlighted the importance of their respective roles, how a tripartite and collaborative approach is essential, and shared good practices to this effect. Some of the key points raised during the panel discussion were:

• The importance of pay transparency measures and reporting, including support for small to medium-sized enterprises. Pay transparency reporting is crucial to know where the gaps are in order to address them. It is vital to get employers and businesses engaged and to identify key leaders to facilitate this approach.

• Governments have a role to play in terms of developing and adopting laws, policies, and regulatory frameworks. Governments also have to lead by example. Follow-up actions and advocacy efforts by governments are crucial, such as sharing information and best practices with the workers and the employers on how to best close the gender pay gap. This ensures a consistent approach.

• Unions have a key role to play to address gender pay gaps, such as providing training on this complex issue and advocating to ensure that equal pay is advanced for all women, including in precarious work.

• Governments can also work with workers’ organizations to provide additional information on the gender pay gap, including on the rights of workers and what actions they can take.

• Equal pay must be part of a broader series of measures to advance gender equality. For example, maternity leave, child care, care leave, increasing minimum wages, training and apprenticeships for women, career counselling, right to organize and collective bargaining, and addressing discrimination, violence and harassment in the workplace.

• The necessity to address gender occupational segregation (women that are overrepresented in undervalued jobs) and take into consideration the needs of other groups that often experience discrimination, such as Indigenous and racialized peoples. An approach based on intersectionality can be helpful in this regard. Pay equity work assessment tools, that recognize the unique competencies of specific groups, are also an interesting option.

One of the main takeaways stressed by the speakers was that collaborative efforts are more than ever needed if we want to continue to make significant strides in advancing equal pay. All agreed that equal pay should indeed be everyone’s business.