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

Sunset Manor, an assisted living facility in Chilliwack, is among five such facilities in the Fraser Health region to have confirmed cases of COVID-19 among staff members, on Oct. 21, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Progress)
Confirmed case of COVID-19 at Chilliwack assisted living facility

Staff members at five Fraser Health care homes have tested positively for coronavirus

Local photographer Wolf Drescher spotted film crews set up along Esplanade Avenue in front of Canwest Art Gallery on the Lake on Thursday, October 1. Film production crews working on ‘Solitary’ will be around the area until close to the end of the month. (Contributed Photo/Wolf Drescher)
“Solitary” Update: Dramatic action scene to be filmed in Agassiz

‘Solitary’ will film a break-in, getaway at Kent Outdoors

About 2,000 people were without power in the Agassiz-Harrison area after a wire dropped on Morrow Road in Agassiz. (Contributed graphic/BC Hydro)
Power restored after downed line near Agassiz Christian School

Crews restored power after about four hours

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Oct. 18

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

More and more electric cars are on the road, but one Chevy Bolt owner was shocked to see how much his BC Hydro bill skyrocketed once he started charging the vehicle. (Black Press file photo)
Rosedale man sees significant spike in BC Hydro bill after purchasing electrical vehicle

An increase should be expected, but Brian Chwiendacz experienced a 200-plus per cent hike

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau is seen as she leaves media event during a campaign stop in West Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green leader hopes voters see value in minority government

The Greens received nearly 17 per cent of the popular vote in 2017 yet received just three seats

Local candidates Pam Alexis, Abbotsford-Mission, and Preet Rai, Abbotsford-West, look on as NDP Leader John Horgan main streets in Abbotsford, B.C., Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. NDP takes snap election risk during pandemic in quest for majority government

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the election was unnecessary and irresponsible during the pandemic

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, B.C., on October 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. Liberal Leader maintains confidence as campaign tests party identity

Liberal campaign has been disrupted by controversy

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Most Read