Women’s wages in post-war Canada

With the war over, women were now forced to leave the jobs that they had so that the men who were coming home could once again take over. It was time for women to go back to being a wife and a mother again and to forget about being a working class citizen. By 1946, there were barely any women seen in the work force at all. By the 1960s increasing numbers of married women began to enter the workforce. Women made up almost one third of the labour force and accounted for much of the growth in the labour force. Even though there were so many women now back in the workforce they still were earning significantly lower wages than men. In 1961, women working full-time, year-round, earned only 59¢ for every dollar a man earned. Overall, including part-time workers, women earned  54¢ on the dollar.

Highly paid professions, such as doctors and lawyers, remained male-dominated, while women still were stuck in female occupations. Many women still worked in personal service jobs as maids and babysitters, and those women in professions were often dietitians or librarians rather than doctors and lawyers. Women in the 1960s were faced with discriminatory policies through most universities and remained under-represented in political institutions. By the end of the decade the Women’s Movement was born and they quickly voiced their arguments, and fought for their rights. Women wanted equality in the workforce and wanted equality with wages as well. So a Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada was established in 1967. In the 70s the commission presented 167 recommendations on such matters as employment, educational opportunities and family law. By the late 1970s, strengthened by the Canadian Human Rights Act, the struggle was to ensure “equal pay for work of equal value” stating that “value” should be determined by the skill effort and responsibility of the individual, not their gender.

Though the women had established the Women’s Movement, and had the Canadian Human Rights Act behind them, they still faced discrimination in the work force; they were still making less in wages, and taking jobs that were considered only “female positions”. In 1980s women were an increasing part of the full time workforce,but yet  earned $10,000 less a year than men. By the 90s increasing numbers of married women earned more than their husbands, and some women were the breadwinners in the families. Women although worked just as hard as men, worked the same jobs and in some families were the only ones who worked at all; they got no respect for a job well done from those around her. If a woman worked she was ridiculed and looked down upon, and she was seen as too fragile and that she should be home with her family. Some women worked in part-time jobs just to support her family, and for what? To do the same work as the man standing next to her and still earn a lower salary.

 – Alexia Mason

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