Letter to the Future from Emanuela Heyninck, Pay Equity Commissioner

Since 1987 and for the past thirty years, Ontario’s Pay Equity Office has worked to advance women’s equality through its enforcement, education and research mandate. Over these three decades, because of the Ontario Pay Equity Act (unique in Canada and in the world), many thousands of employees in female-dominated job classes have seen their wages increased in both the private and public sectors.

Yet….the work of the Office is still very much needed and it will be up to future generations to recognize that that the struggle for women’s economic equality is not yet over and to take up the challenge of ending it.

  • We know what needs to be done. These goals are set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. SDG #5 – gender equality – sets out a number of solutions to be adopted over the next fifteen years.
  • To adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.

In Ontario, while awareness of and respect for women’s economic equality has grown, tolerance for gender workplace discrimination still exists; such bias is rooted in stereotypes and social behaviours that are difficult to shake. “Women‘s work” continues to be undervalued in every sector and women continue to be underpaid despite
significant advances in education and labour force participation.

Gender economic equality can be achieved in Ontario. It can be achieved in the next fifteen years if equal pay for equal work and equal pay for work of equal value is embedded in all employers’ compensation practices.

The individuals, who together are the Pay Equity Office, are committed to enforcing the Act and doing what is needed to provide a better understanding of the importance of achieving women’s economic equality. One of the keys to a better future for Ontario women, their families and communities is educating young people, newcomers, business owners, political leaders on the importance of recognizing the systemic bias that exists in workplace practices and the means to eliminate it.

Thirty years after the innovative Pay Equity Act, 1987, we at the Pay Equity Office believe strongly that the way forward is to take advantage of new digital analysis tools to provide the means for identifying, analysing and correcting the gender bias in compensation practices that the Act aims to eliminate.

Technology, effort, boldness and goodwill are needed to increase the reach of the Act, lessen any perceived administrative or financial burden on employers and ensure a greater impact on closing the gender wage gap. Technology and the means to apply it will lead to workable solutions that will address inequalities in the compensation cycle before they become insurmountable.

The future vision we have for Ontario is a labour market that recognizes the value of all of its participants regardless of gender. We see an Ontario that values everyone’s skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions in a fair and consistent manner and pays them using objective and gender neutral criteria. We see fairness and equality and security and prosperity for the future if we take the right actions today.

Best regards,

Emanuela Heyninck
Pay Equity Commission