Here’s a nice topic to start off our employment law course. A new study from the Conference Board of Canada found that “the proportion of women in senior management positions hasn’t budged in 22 years” even though women comprise a much larger proportion of the workforce.
Since 1987, men have consistently been two to three times more likely than women to hold senior management positions… Between 1987 and 2009, the proportion of women in middle management rose by about 4 per cent. At that rate, it will take approximately 151 years before the proportion of men and women at the management level is equal
What explains the fact that women rarely make it into senior or even middle management positions?
What explains why a full-time women employee working similar hour earns 70% of a man?
This guy (and many neoliberal economists) argue that women earn less and are less likely to get promoted because they are worth less.
Women make life choices that influence their career paths: they have babies and stay home to care for them, and therefore have fewer years of service; they choose to work fewer hours than men and have less travel; and they choose careers that are less physical and less risky than men. All of this leads them to earn less. This explanation assumes that employers are rational and profit-seeking, and that markets are perfectly competitive: that an employer would not pay a man more than a women unless the man was more productive, and that an employer who did so would be driven out of business, since paying a man more than a women is economically irrational unless then man is more productive.
How You Explain the Inequality Determines How You Perceive the Role of Law
The argument that women earn less and get promoted less because they are less productive than men supports the argument that the state should not attempt to “fix” the inequality by employment laws. It is not improper discrimination causing these results, but the market properly rewarding women for their relatively lower productivity.
But if you believe that these results are caused by improper biases on the part of employers, that assume women are less productive or more willing to accept inferior positions, then you will likely support anti-discrimination laws. People who support pay equity and gender discrimination laws argue that labour markets are far from rational and perfectly competitive. The men who make decisions in organizations prefer to deal with men, and hold biases about the attributes of women that cause them to preference men. The fact that women have not advanced in 30 years is just more evidence that the market does not correct gender discrimination.
In Canada, our governments long ago passed laws that prohibit discrimination in wages and advancement in employment on the basis of gender. It is found in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Employment Standards Act, for example. Yet the gender wage and promotion gap seems not to be improving.
What does that say about our laws? Can law “fix” the gender wage gap and remove the glass ceiling? Should it try to do so?