Consultation summary

The gender wage gap consultation gave women and men across the province a chance to share their views and concerns about work, home and pay. Through meetings and discussions, Ontarians told us what they think is causing the gender wage gap and solutions they would like to see.

Letter from the Gender Wage Gap Strategy Steering Committee

To The Honourable Kevin Flynn, Minister of Labour and The Honourable Tracy MacCharles, Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues:

Dear Ministers Flynn and MacCharles,

In the September 2014 mandate letters, the Premier asked you to work together to develop a wage gap strategy “that will close the gap between men and women in the context of the 21st century economy.”

As members appointed to the Gender Wage Gap Strategy Steering Committee, we were tasked with developing recommendations to help the government develop this strategy. We have a mandate to consult with groups across Ontario to understand how women and their families are affected by the gender wage gap, and how government, business, labour, other organizations, and individual leaders can work together to address the conditions and the systemic barriers that contribute to the gap.

Engaging the public in open dialogue is an essential part of the project. We are pleased to provide this summary of comments we heard from the public, businesses, stakeholders, experts and other interested parties. These ideas and suggestions will inform the development of recommendations which will be presented to the government in our final report due by the end of May.

We thank everyone who participated in the consultation process.

Gender Wage Gap Strategy Steering Committee

Nancy Austin
Linda Davis
Emanuela Heyninck
Parbudyal Singh

Public engagement on gender wage gap issues

The consultations provided opportunities for women and men across the province to share their views and concerns about work, home and pay. Through meetings and discussions, Ontarians told us what they thought were the most important factors causing gender wage gaps and solutions they would like to see.

We heard that the gender wage gap has many causes. The consultations gave the Gender Wage Gap Strategy Steering Committee a chance to learn more about them, why they continue to occur and their effects on individuals, their families, businesses and communities.

This report summarizes many of the comments and ideas we received on how to close Ontario’s gender wage gap.

Ways to participate

The Steering Committee used both traditional and digital tools, including consultation documents, email notifications, a web-based survey, and social media, to let as many people as possible contribute to this project.

From October 26, 2015 to February 22, 2016, public town hall sessions were held in 14 locations across the province (see Appendix for locations). Meetings were also held with local businesses, organizations and experts, on specific topics.

To involve businesses and other local stakeholders, major local employers in the main industries in the area were invited based on labour market information from Statistics Canada. Community members with knowledge of the local labour market helped us organize meetings, and identify and invite key business leaders and other stakeholders.

People could also share their experiences and feedback by sending written responses to questions posed in the consultation papers, or by completing an online survey.

Who participated

A wide range of individual workers, residents and representatives of professional associations and employers participated in the consultations. The majority of participants were women, from accountants to warehouse workers, goods and services industries, private, public and broader public sectors, job seekers and students.

We invited a wide range of public and private sector groups, trying to be as inclusive as possible. There were representatives from community organizations, industry associations, business owners, child care, developmental services, educational institutions, health, economic development and social services agencies, municipalities and unions at the consultations. Employer associations provided business viewpoints; however, participation by individual private sector employers was limited.

Detailed lists of organizations can be found in the Appendix.

Participants by the number

  • 170 stakeholders: through meetings and/or written submissions
  • 75 written submissions: one third from individuals, two thirds from organizations
  • 530 people attended the public town hall sessions
  • 1430 online survey responses were received

About the consultation

The consultation papers and the online survey included questions about influences on employment and career decisions, factors that cause the gender wage gap, effective approaches for achieving work life balance, effective gender inclusive workplace policies and pay practices, and other ways to close the gender wage gap. Some participants answered the questions directly; most people gave us their personal views or experiences, or their organization’s position.

An “open mic” format was used at the public town halls. Individuals and stakeholder representatives were present. The public town halls raised awareness of gender wage gap issues in local communities. It gave residents a chance to share their experiences of the local labour market and gender workplace challenges. No specific questions were posed, although reference was made to the consultation documents and website information.

The majority of written submissions came from organizations. Some of these organizations were also represented at the public town halls and/or at local stakeholder meetings.

Overall message

Throughout the province, most people we heard from agreed that the gender wage gap is a problem and that the gap should be closed. Almost everyone recognized that the gender wage gap is not an easy problem to solve. Many said that more should be done and that progress has been too slow. The public welcomed the opportunity to discuss the issue and offered many thoughtful solutions.

[The pay gap is] a symptom of other things happening in society, if you can correct systematic underlying issues you can deal with the gender wage gap.

City for All Women Initiative (CAWI), Ottawa

The majority of talent recruitment, development, and management systems aren’t designed to correct wage inequities, nor will ‘giving it time’ even the playing field for women and men. Only intentional actions will help close these gaps.


Bold, innovative approaches that challenge and transform systemic practices of discrimination are needed to ensure that women and girls finally share in the economic and social wealth of our communities.

Equal Pay Coalition

Comments and ideas through the working life cycle

We heard about significant issues affecting women’s work and pay at all stages of their working life cycle. Participants welcomed the life cycle approach to addressing the problem and many offered solutions for issues occurring within and across the different stages.

Many moving stories and interesting examples were shared. Here are samples of what we heard.

Learning years

In their learning years, children are exposed to images and ideas about what they will be when they grow up. Young people start to think about their education and career choices or about getting their summer, or first, jobs. At this stage, girls and boys develop their self-image, views about others, and learn about their social world, including roles and obligations to family. We heard that we need to ensure girls and young women are assertive and confident, and that both boys and girls need to see their future roles as including caregiving as well as earning an income.

We heard about issues that prevent women from pursuing jobs in male-dominant fields and men from pursuing jobs in female-dominant fields.

Many people said we must start early to challenge gender stereotypes about work historically done by men or women. They said it was important to encourage girls and young women to consider STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields and the skilled trades. It was equally important to encourage boys and young men to consider the “caring” professions.

Many wished that jobs would be “re-valued” so that students could explore jobs or careers based on their skills and interests – and would be fairly paid no matter what path they chose. Some proposed that job skills were changing, and that educators should ensure all children received skills needed to thrive in the 21st century economy, including problem-solving, team-work, financial literacy and coding skills.

People mentioned barriers faced by women in skilled trades. These included: attracting women to the trades, ability to complete their apprenticeship, job retention, and safe, non-harassing workplaces. Some trades require shift work or travel to remote locations with no available child care.

I wanted to be a pipefitter but was told “no”. It’s not that we [girls and women] don’t want to be in men’s jobs, it’s not about how we are raised or choices, it’s about the sexism and harassment and discrimination.

Ottawa Public Town Hall: female participant.

People suggested: showing role models of women in trades, ensuring science and math teachers have university level qualifications in these subjects, emphasizing all career options for both females and males, more training programs for women in skilled trades and technology, ensuring guidance counsellors are trained to understand the jobs and the skills needed for the 21st century economy, encouraging students to “follow their skills” not their gender, and reviewing curriculum for gender equity. A few people suggested that single sex or gender balanced classes might help girls thrive in math and science.

Many people said we need an education and awareness campaign to address societal norms and attitudes. They suggested that the campaign be similar to the province’s anti-sexual violence campaign “It’s never okay” or to anti-smoking campaigns; that it should feature young women talking about their careers and balancing work/life needs, as well as men or dads who are fully involved at home with their children. They also asked for more information about employment rights and obligations and about anti-discrimination laws.

[Media campaigns] help challenge societal attitudes by educating the public about what women in non-traditional professions look like and do, thus helping younger generations envision themselves as future engineers.

#ILookLikeAnEngineer was started by a software engineer to raise awareness, following sexism faced by female engineers and people working in STEM fields.

Ontario Society of Engineers

I work as an Industrial Electrician in an automotive plant. …Learning a skilled trade has given me the confidence to be able to learn so much more in my life.

London Public Town Hall: female participant

Earning years

The jobs people do and where they work affect the gender wage gap. As people start their families, they may leave and re-enter the workforce. Caregiving and work/life balance was identified as an issue by many women and men.

We heard from participants who worked in workplaces where their gender is underrepresented. Women mostly shared the challenges they face in male-dominated workplaces.

I often have to “prove” that I can speak the language and follow the conversation before I’m taken seriously.

IT professional, written submission, female

It’s hard to be a woman in the warehouse…men don’t want women in that field …there’s whispers and snickers…it’s not about skills and ability…if you complain you’re [labeled] a whining female.

Cornwall local business/employer

[mining], 1300 degree molten metal in your face, gas that can drop you to your knees, but you work for 12 hours, then you shower and you’re done. I was working from 5 to 5 so I would sleep in my truck so I don’t wake [my son] up. 24/7 [childcare] will open up opportunities for single parents… working in the mine you have to take on an androgynous personality.

Sudbury Public Town Hall: female participant

I’ve delayed having children because in my career [historically male-dominant profession]…they put you on the “baby track”.

York Region Public Town Hall: female participant

Being in a male same-sex relationship I feel uncomfortable working in heterosexual-male dominated industries. It’s not just women, we need to educate men.

Brampton Public Town Hall: male participant

We heard that there is a “care penalty”, where the wages for women-dominated caregiving professions are too low for women to support themselves and their families (e.g., childcare, developmental services, homecare workers). Low wages were contributing to stress and high turnover in the field. Midwives, elementary school principals, literacy and essential skills workers, also feel their work is undervalued and underpaid. People said men are part of the solution and everyone must “share the care.”

ECE [early childhood education]… it’s important, meaningful work…it’s an investment in the next generation, it’s work that supports the whole labour force, sustains economic growth of the whole province… Give people respect in the profession [by] increasing wages. We need to attract men [to the field].

Toronto Public Town Hall: female participant

We do not value the "caretaker" role as we should in our society. That has to change. People looking after the developmentally challenged, the sick, the poor, the disenfranchised. Those jobs should mean more than making golf clubs.

Former development services worker, Sault Ste Marie

Jobs that tend to be female-dominated (e.g., nursing, childcare and social work) are essential to society and the need for these jobs continues to grow as Ontario’s population ages…

SEIU Healthcare

…the government should start encouraging boys to go into caregiving roles… government should encourage male parental leave to show that it is a shared responsibility.

London Public Town Hall: female participant

I’m choosing to study ECE because I am passionate about the job but I know I will earn less than other industries with the same amount of education.

Toronto Public Town Hall: male participant

Child care was the number one issue everywhere. Clear statements were made about the need for a public system of early childhood education and care that is universal, high quality and comprehensive. Participants called for public funding and support that provides for both adequate wages and affordable fees.

Accessing child care subsidies was noted as an issue for some women. Eligibility is based on an assessment of household income and labour market participation of both parents. These rules may prevent women with children from working and becoming economically independent, because access to child care subsidies depends on household situations rather than an individual’s need. Lack of child care limits women’s employment options. The non-transferability of the subsidy across regions and lack of transportation to childcare facilities were problems many women discussed. These barriers are even more serious for mothers who need to earn enough to leave an abusive relationship.

Sector-based bargaining models were mentioned by some stakeholders as part of the solution to ensure fair pay for the paid caregivers.

Concrete steps must be taken to shift care from a market “good” or “service” to a public resource. The care of people, from cradle to grave, is in everyone’s best interest. That means supporting families and workplaces to offer leaves and flexible work hours… it means a public childcare system.

Childcare Policy Academic, mother

A publicly funded child care system that is high quality, affordable, and flexible, is key to closing the gender wage gap for women in Ontario…our public dollars are best spent in supporting a high quality workforce that is professionally prepared, valued, and fairly compensated. Publicly funded child care is a win-win for Ontario; supporting women, children and families while closing the wage gap in a notoriously [gender] segregated occupation.

Association of Early Childhood Educators of Ontario

[Paid] caregivers need access to a sectoral platform for collective bargaining.

Workers’ Action Centre

…if we don’t have daycare that accommodates shiftwork, people will use informal sector… one city based program is open until midnight… people use it – but they work on a rotating schedule, so you might have 60 children enrolled, but only 25 present in any given evening – it does work, but it is difficult…

Sudbury Childcare Agencies

Participants talked about having difficulty in meeting home and job responsibilities, and facing workplace barriers when they exercise their right to maternity, parental and caregiving leaves. To prevent the “motherhood penalty,” participants called for more generous and flexible parental leaves, pointing to Scandinavian countries such as Sweden, Finland, or Denmark for solutions.

My husband took three months and people referred to him as Mr. Mom. Daddy-only [second parent] leave is important to entice men to take it. It would become more normal and set the tone for other men.

Sudbury Public Town Hall: female participant

Caregiving can be supported by subsidized childcare, flexible hours, time off without penalty, maternity and paternity leaves without penalties, compassionate leaves and better homecare.

Canadian Federation of University Women

My husband was threatened that he would be fired if he took time off to pick up our sick child.

Windsor Public Town Hall: female participant

Advancement and later years

The effects of the gender wage gap compound over a lifetime. Options and supports workers have in their earning years affect their economic security and ability to advance in their careers later in life. Interruptions in career paths affect opportunities for advancement, leadership and pay in later years. We asked what can be done to help lessen the gender wage gap’s effects in later years.

Many comments focused on the need for affordable, accessible and quality child care to support families so women can participate and succeed in the workplace. The needs of the “sandwich generation”, who care for aging parents, as well as those who work shifts, were also mentioned.

Why we don’t have more “family policy” in Canada?

Peterborough Public Town Hall participant

As a single mother, the biggest issue is childcare… finding childcare for irregular hours …If I didn’t spend money on a car, it would be impossible. If starting at minimum wage, you cannot get a car, [and] cannot get ahead.

Burlington Public Town Hall: female participant

I think the gender wage gap would close if Ontario had high quality, accessible and affordable licensed childcare and elder care. If one can go to work with their mind at ease that their loved ones are being cared for in capable and compassionate hands it makes a HUGE difference.

Online survey participant

Many of us are self-employed … being the primary childcare provider in my family severely impacts my ability to grow my business.

Online survey participant

Many organizations and employees supported transparency in pay and for other workplace practices as a way to help workers decide where to work, or negotiate their salary, promotions and training. Some participants said companies should publish information on the distribution of men and women in the workforce, including numbers or proportion of part-time and temporary employees, contract pay, pay gaps within and across jobs, pay gaps in bonuses and other additional payments. Some people pointed out that unless reporting requirements are mandatory, employers are not likely to comply. A suggestion was made to start with government, the largest companies or municipalities.

There is no accountability for employers to have a certain [gender] mix – it should be mandatory. Do something simple, start with cities, big employers who have capacity… it may be heavy handed but it’s needed.

Sudbury Public Town Hall: female participant

However, some employers and some employees saw transparency requirements as invasive and a breach of privacy. Organizations working with employers and some employer participants expressed concern that reporting could be expensive, and it would add to the regulatory burden for businesses, given that they already must report on other issues (e.g., environmental regulations) and to other levels of government. Their suggestion is to implement existing anti-discrimination, labour and employment laws more effectively.

We feel we are reporting so many things to government –businesses are already struggling…If we have laws already in place isn’t implementation an easier fix?

Toronto, organization representing employers

Participants held a range of views about whether current laws adequately protect women from gender-related workplace and gender pay discrimination and how they can be improved. Some people said that the laws are not well enforced, are complex and difficult to access. Many suggested that the laws should be monitored and implemented in a proactive manner by government, instead of relying on an individual’s complaint before an investigation is started.

Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, Labour Relations Act, Pay Equity Act, and Human Rights Code …These laws must be seen as a whole and work together in closing the gender wage gap, and ensuring equity and a solid floor of labour rights for all.

Good Jobs for All Coalition

Human rights tribunals are a nightmare to navigate … government should fund community rights workers to assist women when they have to navigate these systems… Provide supports for women going through harassment processes in their workplaces.

Online survey participant

Without monitoring and enforcement [of existing laws], without maintaining what has been gained, no real change can occur.

Advancement of Women Halton

Some organizations that are subject to the proxy provisions of the Pay Equity Act believe that the government should provide funding for proxy pay equity obligations. Others were more focussed on the need to fund wages in a more even and consistent way across the broader public sector. We heard that there is a need for effective enforcement, proactive monitoring for compliance, support for those making complaints (especially for non-unionized workers), and amendments to the proxy provisions of pay equity.

Addressing this legislated [Pay Equity] obligation without regular corresponding increases in funding is creating tremendous strain and liability for volunteer boards of directors in community agencies… seriously jeopardizing and reducing the capacity of agencies to provide the necessary supports required by people who have an intellectual disability and their families.

Community Living service provider

Amend the proxy provisions of the Pay Equity Act to ensure equal access for women in female dominated establishments.

Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA)

Lack of pay equity is demoralizing. As a two-mother household, we and our children suffer doubly compared to our heterosexual counterparts. Our "women’s" skills are not innate. They are learned and should be valued.

Online survey participant

Independent contractors need the Pay Equity Act – these are precisely the workers whose positions are most precarious, and who are most in need of protection against gender-based discrimination in pay.

Association of Ontario Midwives

Some employers and organizations stated the solution to closing the gender wage gap is not more legislation. They suggested instead that employer incentives and other programs could help close the gender wage gap. A few groups representing employers’ viewpoints recognized the benefits of examining gender and pay practices in their business.

The primary strategy the Ontario Government should employ… is to use its financial resources to provide incentives and rewards for organizations to increase their diversity across occupations and levels… provide funding, taxation, and similar incentives tied to diversity.

Ryerson University, Equity and Diversity Inclusion

The provincial government can give a tax incentive [to employers] to achieve gender parity. Punitive measures get push back, but incentives can impact the bottom line, because if a “bad” employer chooses not to do anything, he will be subsidizing his competitors, who are doing something [and getting the tax break].

Scarborough Public Town Hall participant

Financial services companies are committed to…providing significant resources for initiatives such as mentoring, coaching, networking, leadership development, maternity/parental transition support, and diversity programs… Government may wish to consider…exploring a sector approach which targets initiatives to specific problem areas.

Toronto Financial Services Alliance

…carrying out a pay equity exercise…forces a company to examine its compensation practices and policies…Executives are surprised at how much they learn about their organization and the value of jobs…companies that carry out pay equity benefit from improved organizational climate by having cultivated positive workplace relationships and teamwork.

Solertia, consultants/employer

Specific groups and other issues throughout the working life cycle

People from different backgrounds emphasized the importance of addressing gender wage gaps experienced by Aboriginal people, immigrants, low income families and people with disabilities. Many participants named discrimination as a main, underlying root cause of the gender wage gap. People noted that discrimination took many forms.

Strategies must begin by acknowledging and confronting the fact that the pay gap arises from systemic discrimination against women. The reality is that Ontario men’s and women’s lives are different and unequal and those who suffer from additional discrimination face much higher gaps.

Equal Pay Coalition

Young people among the First Nations are enthusiastic about getting good jobs, but too many…still experience racism and discrimination…Although discrimination against me as a First Nations woman is not overt…my voice becomes silenced when the employer consistently diminishes my opinions.

Aboriginal woman, written submission

Women living in poverty or with a disability often cannot pursue a [gender-based] workplace complaint against their employer for fear of losing their source of income… Mental health disabilities are often associated with key systemic barriers that block people from achieving their employment goals.

Canadian Mental Health Association

The main priority of many immigrant women is to earn a living wage to support their families. Because their credentials and foreign experience are not recognized, they are less likely to find work that is applicable. As a result they will often find themselves under-employed with low wages. The longer they are away from their profession, the more likely they are going to be “de-skilled.”

Chinese Interagency Network

Discrimination against transgendered women, and Islamaphobia against women who wear the hijab was mentioned and seen to affect equal access to employment opportunities, which results in a wider gender wage gap.

Individuals and organizations suggested that employment equity law and policies should be used to require employers to end discriminatory practices. Other ideas included:

…use disaggregated data to identify benchmarks and indicators to monitor the progress of hiring, promotion, and pay as it relates to racialized and other historically disadvantaged and marginalized communities; require public and private employers to conduct workplace inclusion audit on an annual basis to identify and address any obstacles to equal employment and equal pay.

Colour of Poverty-Colour of Change Network

Other issues contributing to the gender wage gap

Precarious work, employment and labour laws and link to the changing workplaces review

Many individuals and stakeholder groups talked about the precarious nature of jobs in the 21st century economy. While these recommendations may have greater applicability for the Ministry of Labour’s Changing Workplaces Review, footnote 1 they are relevant to closing the gender wage gap to the degree they address challenges of caregiving, risk of low wages, precarious work or vulnerable workers and career advancement faced by women workers. The main suggestions include legal provisions that provide for:

  • increased minimum wage or a living wage
  • reliable scheduling
  • pathways to full-time work
  • guaranteed paid sick or personal days
  • facilitation of unionization using card-based certification or sector bargaining
  • extending equal pay for equal work

In addition, program ideas included:

  • encouraging males to use caregiver leaves
  • flexible schedules/job sharing
  • anti-harassment policies/reporting processes
  • mentoring programs

In most cases, stakeholders have made these recommendations to the Changing Workplaces Review, as they affect the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act.

The gender wage gap must be addressed by looking through the lens of precarious work…we mean work that is insecure, unstable, low income and without benefits or union representation, and not effectively covered by labour regulations.

Worker Action Centre and Parkdale Legal Community Services

The effects of precarious employment are distributed unevenly in the economy; disproportionately affecting society’s most vulnerable [including] women, immigrants and visible minorities.

United Food and Commercial Workers Union

Caregiving responsibilities would be supported through policies around workplace absences, including legislated paid sick time for all employees, sick time to care for dependants, vacation time and vacation pay in line with global standards, the ability to reduce work hours without penalty, and [option for] condensed work weeks.

Sudbury Social Planning Council

Employment support for survivors of domestic violence

People mentioned the links between domestic violence, employment options and the gender wage gap. Women who have experienced domestic violence or abuse may need time and support to re-locate and get another job, or they take on multiple jobs or lower paid jobs as they are escaping from a partner. The main recommendations to support women who have experienced violence were to provide specialized support services, child care subsidies, skills training programs and personal leaves to help women return to work.

Young people’s employment opportunities

Some younger participants talked about graduating without a job and a “mortgage” of student loan debt. Some young women experience a gender wage gap right after graduating from post-secondary education. Their lower earnings mean it will take these women longer to repay their loans.

To get their career going, some considered taking low paying jobs or doing unpaid internships. Some suggestions were made to provide free/interest free tuition, more cooperative education opportunities and tracking job placements, more relevant guidance counselling and to eliminate the student minimum wage.

Members of the Premier’s Council on Youth Opportunities wanted to ensure that the recommendations addressed the needs of the most vulnerable populations of young women, including low income, lone female led families, and those facing mental health issues, or in the criminal justice system. The members strongly asserted that a focus on the intersectionalities of gender, race, sexuality, Aboriginal and disabilities should be included in the recommendations.

Opportunities in rural and northern communities

Participants from rural and northern communities raised issues that contribute to the rural gender wage gap including lack of jobs, lack of childcare, lack of affordable transportation, discrimination, occupational segregation, jobs in remote locations and shiftwork.

Solutions suggested included investment in rural and remote infrastructure, and gender-specific initiatives in rural and remote communities.

Other ideas and best practices

Municipal and provincial budgets, policy- and decision-making

Several participants and organizations stated that governments play an important role in closing the gender wage gap in the ways they allocate funding, collect gender-based program data, and whether they take into consideration the different effects that their policy and spending decisions have on women and men (for example, the role of the Ontario Women’s Directorate in applying a gender lens to programs and policies).

Implement a gender and equity lens in the current provincial budget process and in cabinet and ministry decision-making.

Equal Pay Coalition

…the wages for public sector workers are significantly more equal than those in the private sector [so] reductions in the public workforce has particular impacts on women’s equality.

United Steelworkers (USW)

…the government…needs to ensure that the gender wage gap is a consideration when it is making decisions about cost savings initiatives… discussions must begin with deciding what policy goals and outcomes the government is seeking and how to integrate its fiscal and social priorities… a shift in thinking must move from short-term solutions to broader transformation.

Written submission, female, Toronto

Each year, the Province of Ontario is engaged in millions of dollars’ worth of contract negotiations. Provincial investments, allocations and commitments can be used as leverage to make businesses implement equity based hiring practices.

Colour of Poverty-Colour of Change Network

Mixed support for salary negotiation

Some participants said it may be helpful for the government to sponsor salary negotiation training for women; however, others pointed out the initiative may backfire because employers may “look down on those [women] who negotiate pay.”

I never would have thought that I had permission to negotiate salary…

Thunder Bay Public Town Hall: female manager

…studies show that when women negotiate for higher salaries, people react more negatively than they would to a man asking for more money. [Instead] Organizations should conduct pay equity audits to identify and correct anomalies based on gender. These [audit] policies… take the onus off of women who are often blamed for earning less than men because they didn’t negotiate.


Role of unions and sector-based collective bargaining

Unions and unionized workers talked about the “union advantage.” They stated the ability for women to join a union has proven to be a significant contributing factor toward reducing the gender pay gap. Thus they recommend making it easier for women to join unions.

One good method of dealing with the gender wage gap would be for the government to legislate in a way that does not discourage union organizing.

Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario (AMAPCEO)

The two largest constituencies of migrant workers (caregivers and farm workers) are excluded from the right to unionize and bargain collectively under the Labour Relations Act. As such they are denied one of the most important tools for closing the wage gap.

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

It was pointed out that the Labour Relations Act (LRA) needs to be updated to address changing labour market practices. (Note: the Changing Workplace Review is currently conducting a review of Ontario’s system of employment and labour standards.) However, any proposed changes must consider how current legal frameworks for collective bargaining “as usual,” may in fact reinforce gender discrimination in pay and produce low pay for work historically performed by women, in large part because women are often isolated in bargaining units that are predominantly female. Reference was made to sector-based bargaining as an approach. The construction labour framework was suggested as a model for consideration.

An International Labour Organization review of 57 countries concludes that “multi-employer bargaining at the sectoral or national level is the most inclusive form of collective bargaining.” [These models] tend to offer more inclusive labour protection for vulnerable workers, such as women and migrant workers. It can also help to establish minimum standards for working conditions in an industry or sector.

Worker Action Centre and Parkdale Legal Community Services

Local government initiatives

A number of diversity and inclusion plans have been undertaken at the municipal government level. Local groups advocating for gender equality and equity have made contributions to gender analysis in Ontario cities (e.g., Toronto Women’s City Alliance and Ottawa’s City for All Women).

Student initiatives

Innovative student run initiatives across the province include a male alliance group on campus which discusses masculinity and popular culture, self-esteem issues, and participates in campus “take back the night” events in Thunder Bay; poster and other awareness campaigns; and participation of University of Waterloo in “#HeforShe” – a world-wide campaign initiated by UN Women to engage men and boys as agents of change for the achievement of gender equality and women’s rights.

Community-based research

Community-based research on women’s local employment issues is being conducted in a few areas. For example, Workforce WindsorEssex has produced a report on women in trades, and a gender-based needs assessment of workplace barriers facing women. However, these gender-based workforce analyses were only carried out in select areas. There is a knowledge gap in areas not covered.

Organizational perspective

At the organizational level, on getting hired and setting starting salaries, the Human Resources Professionals Association recommended diversifying the applicant pool, implementing anonymous reviews of qualifications and resumes (e.g., eliminate gender-identifying information from documents), standardizing interview questions, and setting starting salaries.

Closing comments

The consultations confirmed that there are many ways of understanding gender wage gap issues and many solutions to help close the gap. As the Steering Committee considers recommendations for the final report, we will reflect on the valuable themes expressed throughout the consultations.

  1. Discrimination, based on gender and other social identifiers in the labour market and workplaces, still exists.
  2. Almost everyone mentioned the need to provide high quality, affordable and accessible childcare as a priority issue to help working women and their families close the gender wage gap.
  3. People who wanted improvements in working conditions suggested solutions related to leaves, scheduling, flexible work arrangements, unionization and sector bargaining.
  4. Many people emphasized the importance of addressing issues facing vulnerable and precarious workers.
  5. “Share the care” was common to many proposed solutions. Family-friendly policies to address caregiving needs include: paid leaves for the second parent, childcare, public awareness campaigns using traditional or social media to engage men and to dispel gender stereotypical attitudes about jobs and career paths.
  6. There were many comments about initiatives to achieve greater transparency in pay and other workforce practices.
  7. It was consistently emphasized that pay equity and other workplace anti-discrimination laws need to work together, and be easy to access.
  8. People repeatedly raised the role, commitment and activities of government as important for closing the gender wage gap.
  9. More data and measurement tools are required to fully understand gendered effects of programs, policies and budget decisions on men and women.
  10. Government should show the way by being a model employer for workplace gender diversity, and by embedding gender analysis in policy development, program funding, and legislative processes.


Public town hall locations

  • York Region (Richmond Hill)
  • Thunder Bay
  • Ottawa
  • Cornwall
  • Toronto (downtown)
  • Windsor
  • Kitchener-Waterloo
  • Burlington
  • Toronto (Scarborough)
  • Peterborough
  • Sudbury
  • London
  • St. Catharines-Niagara
  • Brampton

Total participants, all locations: 530

95 stakeholder groups by location

October 26, 2015York Region

Catholic Community Services of York (CCSY)
Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA) – York Region
Richmond Hill Chamber of Commerce
United Way, Toronto/York Region
Workforce Planning Board

October 28, 2015Thunder Bay

Lakehead University Students Union (LUSU)
Student Union of Confederation College (SUCCI)

November 6, 2015Toronto

Jessie’s Centre

November 12, 2015Ottawa

City for All Women Initiative (CAWI)
Dalhousie Day Care

November 13, 2015Cornwall

Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce
City of Cornwall
Eastern Ontario Training Board
Job Zone d’emploi
Sigma Point

November 16, 2015Toronto

Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC)
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
Catalyst Canada
Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW)
Ontario Association of Nurses (ONA)
Ontario Council of Hospital Unions
Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)
Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Initiative for Women in Business
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)
Women in Capital Markets
Women in Mining (Toronto)
Women of Influence

November 19, 2015Windsor

AIDS Committee of Windsor/Blue House Drop-In Centre for Women
New Canadians Centre of Excellence Inc.
Ska:NA Family Learning Centre
St. Clair College
Unemployed Help Centre
WE-Tech Alliance
Women’s Enterprise Skills Training of Windsor (WEST)
Women’s Financial Preparedness
Workforce Windsor-Essex

November 20, 2015Kitchener-Waterloo

HeForShe Impact 10x10x10 Campaign, University of Waterloo
Teledyne DALSA

November 23, 2015Burlington

Advancement of Women Halton
Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) – Burlington
Community Development Halton

November 30, 2015Scarborough

Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario (AECEO)
Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO)
Canadian Payroll Association (CPA)
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
Childcare Resource and Research Unit
Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA)
Ontario Business Improvement Area
Association (OBIAA)
Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care
Retail Council of Canada
Ryerson University
Toronto Japanese Association of Commerce and Industry (TJACI)

December 9, 2015TorontoEqual Pay Coalition
December 9, 2015Peterborough

City of Peterborough – Social Services Division
Trent University, Faculty, Staff and Student Council
Sheila Cook – UN Women Global Champion

December 17-18, 2015Sudbury

City of Greater Sudbury
Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce
Northeastern Ontario Construction Association
Our Children, Our Future
Social Planning Council of Sudbury
Sudbury and Manitoulin Workforce Planning
Teddy Bear Daycare
YMCA Sudbury

January 12, 2016Toronto

Conference Board of Canada

January 25-26, 2016London

City of London – Social Services
City of London – Deputy Mayor
Employment Sector Council London Middlesex
London Urban League
Neighbourhood Legal Services
Pillar Nonprofit Network
Tech Alliance

January 27, 2016TorontoSchool of Public Policy and Governance, University of Toronto
February 12, 2016TorontoOntario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA)
February 16, 2016St. Catharine’s /Niagara

Innovate Niagara Region
Niagara Region
Niagara Workforce Planning Board
Women in Business/Niagara Chamber of Commerce
Welland Heritage Council

February 23, 2016TorontoKathleen Lahey, Queen’s University
February 29, 2016TorontoPremier’s Council on Youth Opportunities
March 8, 2016TorontoArmine Yalzanian, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

50 written submissions received from stakeholders


  • Advancement of Women Halton
  • Association of Early Childhood Educators (AECEO)
  • Association of Ontario Midwives
  • Canadian Federation of University Women
  • Canadian Mental Health Association (Ontario)
  • Catalyst Canada
  • CFUW - Burlington
  • Chinese Interagency Network Labour Committee
  • Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC)
  • City of Sudbury ECE Group
  • Colour of Poverty/Colour of Change Network
  • Community Living Tillsonburg
  • Dr. Tammy Schirle
  • Equal Pay Coalition (EPC)
  • Good Jobs for All Coalition
  • Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA)
  • International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers Canada (IAMAW Canada)
  • Literacy Link South Central Ontario (with Ad Hoc Committee of Learning Networks of Ontario)
  • London and District Labour Council
  • Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC)
  • Ontario Agencies Supporting Individuals with Special Needs (OASIS)
  • Ontario Association of Architects (OAA)
  • Ontario Bar Association (OBA)
  • Ontario Coalition for Better Childcare (OCBCC)
  • Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA)
  • Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)
  • Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL)
  • Ontario Municipal Human Resource Association (OMHRA)
  • Ontario Nurses Association
  • Ontario Principals’ Council (OPC)
  • Ontario Society of Professional Engineers
  • OPP Civilian Association of Managers and Specialists (OPPS CAMS)
  • Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)
  • Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO)
  • Ryerson University, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU Healthcare)
  • Social Planning Council of Sudbury
  • Solertia Consulting Group
  • Toronto Financial Services Alliance
  • Toronto Women’s City Alliance
  • UFCW Canada Local 1000A
  • UFCW National
  • United Steel Workers (USW)
  • Waterloo Regional Labour Council (WRLC)
  • Women in View on Screen
  • Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)
  • Workers’ Action Centre (WAC)/Parkdale Legal Community Services
  • York Region Centre for Community Safety

In addition, the Gender Wage Gap Steering Committee received 25 written or oral submissions from individuals.

Online survey results

A voluntary online survey was open from November 27, 2015 to February 29, 2016.

The survey asked questions about work experiences, influences and barriers to employment and career decisions, negotiating pay, work life balance issues, factors that cause the gender wage gap, opinions on effective gender inclusive workplace policies and pay practices, and sought any other comments.

It provided a convenient way for Ontarians to participate in the GWG Strategy consultations. Many people found the topic of the gender wage gap important and relevant enough to take the time to respond, and were comfortable expressing their views through the online format. The responses of those who participated in this survey cannot be generalized to other individuals, groups or populations.

There were 1430 responses: 1422 in English and 8 in French.

  • Most of the respondents were non-immigrant women, who live in urban centres
  • Over three quarters of the respondents were between the ages of 25 and 54
  • 42% of the respondents think gender stereotypes and discrimination is the main cause of the gender wage gap
  • 86% of respondents said all workplaces in Ontario should provide salary information and share their human resources policies
  • The survey results are included in this consultation summary report