The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), of which the Federation of Students is a member, launched a campaign this week to bring attention to the gender pay gap in Ontario.
This campaign was funded by a grant from the Pay Equity Commission of Ontario, which calculates that the overall gender pay gap in Ontario is still 30 per cent. According to Stats Canada, this amounts to female university graduates making an average of about $300,000 less over the course of their career compared to male university graduates.
One aspect of the campaign launched with an online video, which parodies how workplaces seemingly differentiate educational qualifications by gender. The video showcases the idea of a “Bachelorette Degree” that only females have access to.
“Talking about the Bachelorette Degree is an attempt to satirize the way women’s education is undervalued in our society,” said Shawn Murphy, OUSA steering committee member and Trent-Oshawa Student Association vice-president of university affairs in a press release. “It’s ridiculous to think that our universities would issue his and hers degrees to graduates — that would be degrading and obviously wrong. Yet research shows that your gender identity has a very real impact on your ability to leverage your education in the workplace.”
The gender pay gap is not a new problem. Jen Carter, president of OUSA, believes that now is as good a time as any to talk about it. “Why not? In 2015, in Canada, you would think that it’s just common sense that we would have equality. However, that is just not the case. In my opinion, this issue is news and should remain news until it is solved completely,” said Carter.
As a provincial lobby group focusing on post-secondary education, the connection between their policy issues and this campaign may not be immediately apparent. But Carter explained, “This is definitely a little bit different than what we have done in the past, but by no means does it go off of the core mandate of the organization.
“This isn’t something that we are directly lobbying the government for, but this is something that we are raising awareness about. This is an issue that affects all of our students, whether male or female students … this is an issue that people should know about and be talking about.”
The campaign’s goal is get students thinking about the issues and how they value themselves.
“I genuinely don’t think that students on campuses are really thinking that when they get out into the workforce with a degree that they will be treated any differently. It is really important to raise awareness about that. I really want young people to be empowered with the knowledge that they are valuable and that they might actually be worth more than their employers are paying them.
“I think it is definitely important for young woman to push the envelope and make sure that they are working individually to affect this change. And structurally it is about asking critical questions of the way society has placed value on different kinds of work,” said Carter.
The campaign will take place at the various OUSA-affiliated schools for the rest of the month and students are being encouraged to engage on social media about their #bachelorettedegree and why they want to end the pay gap.