I didn’t realize how remarkable it was for me to get the same pay and benefits as my male peers, until I retired and started reading about the Women’s Empowerment Principles, Employment Equity and other topics that are fascinating to someone like me with a human resources background. In April 2014, as a member of the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women, I received a copy to the Equal Pay Coalition of Ontario’s publicity package for Equal Pay Day April 16th. I was appalled to read that the average Ontario woman earns 31% less than the average Ontario man. According to the materials provided even when women and men were doing the same job, with the same background and education, women in most career fields still earned 20% less than their male peers. The Pay inequity is even worse for Aboriginal women, women from visible minorities and women with disabilities.
I run a one person business. While I interact with other business people, my neighbours and friends, most would not categorize me as being in a position to change policy to build a more equitable world. I disagree. On behalf of the Belleville and Trenton & District BPW Clubs I issued a press release on Equal Pay Day. I wore red all that week and spread the Equal Pay Day message through Twitter and Facebook. I even made a point of discussing the pay equity issue with my daughters and son. My seven year old son said “that’s just not fair!” He likened pay inequity to bullying.
One of the barrier’s to women pursuing the careers they want is work-life balance. Like it or not we live in a world where most of the family care responsibilities are considered “women’s work.” I’d like to share how Flexible Work Arrangements can be used to encourage pay equity by making it easier for everyone to achieve work life balance.
Policies that allow employees flexibility in the time, place or duration of work, so that the employee can balance their work and personal life commitments are called Flexible Work Arrangements (FWA). I’ve experienced informal FWA throughout my career. I’ve seen parents time shift their work hours to match their childcare arrangements. I know people who have taken leaves of absence without pay to complete education goals or to accompany their spouse for a job move. In 2013, while researching an article I was writing I learned that the majority of people using FWA are men in their 40’s. There are factories and even first responders (fire, police, paramedics) that embrace FWA’s and encourage their employees to use them. A 2010 study of IBM workers found that those working from home produced 19 more hours of work a week. Recruiting and training new employees costs money and takes time. Therefore there is a valid business case for implementing FWA’s in your organization.
Many knowledge workers, men and women, are choosing to do part-time or contract work to allow them more flexibility. In December 2013, while waiting for maintenance on my car, I met a biologist who started a second career as a teacher so that she could have more flexibility when she started a family. She’s been working as a supply teacher for several years now and has three children who are all under 6 years old. She enjoys the flexibility of working as a supply teacher; it allows her to spend time with her children while keeping current in her role as an educator. I’ve also met several people who only do contract work, so that they can choose assignments that allow them the flexibility to care for ailing family members. FWA’s work! Please consider implementing them in your organization.
If you’d like to learn more about Principle 2; check out the WEPs Webpage at http://www.weprinciples.org/Site/Principle2/