Every year, MUN’s Harris Centre & The Community Foundation of NL release a “Vital Signs Report.” It’s a great read that calls itself a checkup on the quality of life in Newfoundland and Labrador.

One eyesore from this year’s summary of the states of affairs in Newfoundland & Labrador was in the opening remarks of a piece on page 3, by the St. John’s Status of Women Council, “Our province has the unfortunate distinction of having the largest gender wage gap in the country.”

The short contribution was big on bleak stats. Precisely two-thirds of minimum wage earners in our province are women.

That doesn’t line up. Women are as educated as men in our province. According to Stats Canada, “Since the early 1990s, women have made up the majority of full-time students enrolled in undergraduate university programs.”

The same is true for locals enrolled at MUN. 2017 data from MUN shows the number of female to male graduates in various disciplines. Here are some examples of the number of undergrad degrees award to women, versus men, in 2017. :

  • Business: 208 women to 171 men
  • Medicine: 46 women to 34 men
  • Science: 225 women to 182 men
  • Social Work: 65 women to 5 men
  • Education: 216 women to 86 men

The only notable differences in male-dominated fields were engineering and political science. Last year at the Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook, only 38 men received undergraduate degrees. Versus 173 women.

And yet 66% of minimum wage workers are women.

Perhaps hiring bias explains the gender wage gap: too many employers see men as more qualified for zero reason. But some of the mystery is pretty obvious: it is women who give up their careers to rear children as a rule.

Women continue to find piecemeal work to supplement family income. This may explain why 69% of part-time workers in NL are women (Source: Vital Signs 2018).

Statistics Canada clearly tells us that mothers do two-thirds of all the hours of household work done by Canadian parents. So, no surprise they make only two-thirds of what they’re male partner makes.

But career-disruption as a result of child-rearing does not explain away the entire injustice of the wage gap. Women are clearly over-represented in lower-paying sectors, like education. In 2017, 82% of jobs in NL healthcare were filled by females.

High paying jobs in important resource-based sectors of our province, like Mining or Oil & Gas, are notably male dominated. This is despite the fact women dominate the number of degrees being awarded in fields like science & business.

In 2016, the average annual income for a male in our province was $56,724. For a woman? $34,259. That’s not good enough.

Something needs to be done about  the wage gap — for equality, sure, but to make men care more about this, something also needs to be done about the wage gap for the betterment of household financial security, and to stimulate our provincial economy.

More affordable child care options and government policies that see to their enactment would be a fine place to start. Many women stay home to raise their child because childcare costs are high enough they nullify the mother’s paycheque. What is done for familial or financial reasons at the time ends up being a disruption to that woman’s career trajectory. Seniority and momentum are vital assets for upward movement of careers.