Alberta must close gender gap

The best advice Alberta parents can give their daughters is to tell them to work somewhere else.

The best advice Alberta parents can give their daughters is to tell them to work somewhere else.

Either that or tell them they must find their voice, and with other women, find ways to end the gender wage gap in Alberta.

That voice must in part be found by getting the province to commit to establishing an arm of government dedicated to helping women toward equality. And just as soon as women attain wage equity, and other benefits vital to a fair and healthy society, the Department of Women could be disbanded.

As it is now, ashamedly, Alberta is the most unequal province in the country when it comes to women’s earnings.

Alberta research released on Monday on International Women’s Day points to the persistent wage gap between men and women, despite Alberta’s boom from 2002 to 2007.

In 2007, the median income for women working full time, full year in good stable jobs in Alberta was 66 per cent of what men earned. The Canadian median earnings gap was 74 per cent, the Parkland Institute says.

Quebec women fared the best at 81 per cent. Manitoba women were second at 77.8 per cent. This is not to say it’s better in Quebec and Manitoba, or anywhere else in Canada. Unequal is unequal.

Parkland Institute says women now form 58 per cent of Alberta’s undergraduate university population and have made up over half of the university population since 1993. But those gains do not translate into a smaller wage gap. Female university graduates, employed full year and full time, earned just 67 per cent of what Alberta men with university degrees earn.

Here’s the worst part: “In 2002, female university graduates earned 79 per cent of men’s earnings — demonstrating that the oilsands boom boosted men’s earnings far more than women’s.”

“We’ve always known that women are more impacted than men by recessionary periods,” Parkland’s research director Diana Gibson says. “Now we know that, at least in Alberta, they don’t seem to do any better doing boom periods either.”

Parkland Institute describes itself as a non-partisan public policy research network at the Faculty of Arts in the University of Alberta. The institute tends to challenge the status quo, backed up with research. Whether you agree or disagree with institute studies, they are thought provoking and worthy of serious consideration.

Men who accept that their female partners earn less than them should consider this: What financial difference would it make in the household if their comparably educated and trained partners brought home 30 per cent more income? Then add it up, year after year after year.

Parkland Institute says other provinces are beginning to treat the wage gap as a serious economic problem, affecting private and public productivity, and retention of female skilled workers. In New Brunswick, a wage gap initiative will try to narrow the gap.

Parkland Institute also noted that Alberta female single parents are worse off than in the rest of Canada. The workplace income they earned during the boom dropped, while in the rest of Canada it increased.

Parkland Institute research shows Alberta women face other disadvantages:

• Alberta is one of only three provinces that only allows the bare minimum for maternity and parental leave benefits.

• The Alberta government allocates the lowest number of dollars for regulated child-care spaces.

• Alberta has the lowest social assistance rates in Canada for single parents.

Alberta is the only jurisdiction in Canada without a minister responsible for the status of women or an advisory council to government on the status of women, Alberta is alone in having no mechanisms for gender analysis of social and economic policy, the institute says.

Obviously, the government of Alberta prefers it this way.

Mary-Ann Barr is Advocate assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at barr@reddeeradvocate or by phone at 403-314-4332.

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