What a hellhole the Liberals think Canada must be for women who work or want to work. According to Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s budget “too many women” face barriers to getting hired and promoted. Women with “social identities like race, religion, sexuality, disability and socio-economic status” may be pressured to take jobs that do not reflect their skills simply because of their “desire, or need, to work.”
Morneau’s Liberal budget, released this past Tuesday, goes on to report that once women get these jobs they don’t want, the misery continues. “Discrimination and sexual harassment in the workforce, unbalanced parental leave, a decade of no investments in affordable child care, and the shortage of leaders who will advocate for equal workplaces — these are just some of the things that make it tough for women to succeed.”
That racial, religious and sexual discrimination exist is beyond question. Society is full of all kinds of crazy, nasty and destructive prejudices and ideologies, but they do not dominate Canadian life. To portray Canada as a society driven by gender prejudice and sexism is nothing but gross and sensational pandering.
The full 362-page text of the budget refers to “women” 708 times, which must be a national budget record for direct pandering on a social policy issue. It’s also a relatively recent social policy invention, the product of a concerted effort from Canada’s gender-activist intelligentsia and executives from a smattering of corporations.
Morneau’s first budget in 2016 mentioned women only 30 times, mostly in the context of Indigenous issues and women’s health. His 2018 budget mentions pharmacare only three times, reflecting a lack of immediacy that is welcome news from an economic perspective. Instead of pharmacare, however, the budget offers us all-new gendercare, a cradle-to-CEO system of government programs to lift Canada’s long-suffering women from their current plight in this national employment and entrepreneurial hell.
In the days leading up to the budget, The Globe and Mail published about a dozen op-eds and stories from the corporate and academic activists who are behind the Trudeau Liberal gender crusade. They include such “thought leaders” as the Canadian Gender and Good Governance Alliance, the Centre for Research and Education on Women and Work, Women in Capital Markets’ Women in Leadership Network and the Institute for Gender and the Economy. Riding shotgun are a few corporate types from banks and non-profits such as Catalyst: Making Workplaces Work for Women.
In answer to these agitations, the budget announced that the 42-year-old Status of Women Agency will become a government department with its own minister. As one commentator noted, the Status of Women Agency already appeared to be “running all the others.”
The oppression of women is allegedly deep and wide. Morneau talked of the need for “equal pay for work of equal value” in private regulated industries, an absurd concept that would require some kind of national Work Valuation Board to establish standards to measure the “value” of different kinds of work and set equal-value salaries of all employees based on a bureaucratic analysis of all the inputs, outputs and whatever subjective determinants of value they can imagine. Never mind the market. Are federal MPs of equal “value” to airline pilots? Are CBC anchorpersons and bank executives of equal “value”?
Businesses in Canada are overwhelmingly owned by men”— as the budget whines — is presented as an indicator of systemic genderism that’s just crying out for the government to correct. And how about the fact that Canadian women devote approximately four hours a day to unpaid household work, compared with about three hours for Canadian men, which the budget says means women suffer from “the demands of unpaid work.”
And then there’s the wage gap. Women are said to earn 69 cents for every dollar earned by men “on an annual basis,” a ridiculously distorting measure. As others have noted, the average hourly wage — a more accurate indicator — for women is now up to 87 per cent of men. The budget also notes that Women are also under-represented in positions of leadership. “Though they account for nearly half of the Canadian workforce, only a third of senior managers and one in 20 chief executive officers are women.” That’s another problem that government can apparently solve.
Through dozens of bits of legislation, initiatives, programs, strategies, incentives and financial benefits the government aims to fix all gender wrongs and inequities — real, perceived and imagined.
Justification for the sweeping economy-wide gender interventions comes from various claims that doing so will create more economic growth. “Simply put when women have the support and opportunities they need to fully contribute to Canada’s economy, the entire economy does better — today, and well into the future,” according to the document.
To help support that conclusion, the budget referred to a couple of reports, including one from the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics. The budget said the institute found that “increasing the share of women in leadership positions from zero to 30 per cent translated into a 15 per cent boost in profits — that’s more money for businesses to invest in new jobs that will benefit more people.”
The same misleading words were used by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his World Economic Forum talk in January. The Peterson report, however, was somewhat less categorical than the budget’s claim that more women execs would “translate” into better performance. It merely said a move from zero to 30-per-cent female leadership is statistically “associated with” 15 per cent higher profitability.
The study did not claim evidence of cause and effect. Instead, it said the robustness of the results “warrants further study.” The estimated gain, moreover, “may well diminish over time… and is surely subject to diminishing returns.” The results should be “interpreted cautiously.”
In other words, there’s not enough here to warrant action by government or business on executive leadership. The Peterson study also concluded, among other things, that “the evidence on the impact of female board membership on firm performance is not robust.”
Academic criticisms of consultants’ and institutional gender studies have been noted in this space before as products of policy-based evidence making. But more importantly, Canada is not a misogynist military or religious dictatorship where half the population is locked out of the labour force. Gendercare will not liberate millions of women out of unproductive servitude into growth-generating occupations. Canadian women are already free and productive.