Unpacking the Dimensions of the Wage Gap | Monica Bassilli
BIPOC Bipoc Women Edmonton News

Unpacking the Dimensions of the Gender Wage Gap

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Growing up, the wage gap ad its implications were trivialized and deemed a myth. As school clicks and friend groups are separated between girls and boys, I found myself nestled in with the ‘bros.’ Being called “one of the guys” was something I valued and believed was significant to my understanding of why women are “too much.” But how, exactly, are women “too much?”


By high school, I had been conditioned to the attitudes and needs of men. As a result, only men were in my friend groups, with the occasional girl being the group’s flirt. In this way, I distanced myself from women because I had not successfully connected with another woman. 


Shock and Denial

The excuses I held dear were just that, excuses. I told myself that women were too complicated, never satisfied, and always complaining. I prided myself on having primarily male friends to isolate and distance myself from what I believed to be a weakness.

Unfortunately, these mindsets are too common for tomboys or those deemed too effeminate to join the girls. Over years of solidifying a false sense of superiority compared to other women, I realized that my desire to be included as one of the guys meant something more. I wanted to be successful. I didn’t want to fall behind and see myself among women who became Instagram “influencers” or low-level office workers. I needed to prove to myself and everyone around me that I would not end up like a stereotypical woman.


Pain and Guilt

Growing up and observing my parents’ dynamic more than assured me that I was making the right decision. My father married into a ten-year age gap, being older, marrying my mother, and starting a family just months apart. By months, I am referring to a maximum of two months apart. Further, I watched as my mother completed Canadian college programs that served no actual purpose. Then, I heard of her Bachelor’s degree in commerce from Egypt and wondered – for what?

I could not rationalize this situation without assuming the nature of women. Their worth, agency, and power lay in the hands of the man they or someone else chose for them. Constantly, when asked about my parents’ life in Egypt, I feel hopeless. I need to continually remind myself and those around me that my parents did not know each other in Egypt. They didn’t even live in the same city. Notwithstanding the systemic nature of many arranged marriages, the Coptic Orthodox Church in Canada functioned as the authority by which marriage was granted.

With this in mind, it is challenging to rationalize further that my parents did not even live in the same city when they both left Egypt. My mother lived in Vancouver, while my father lived in Ottawa, unaware of each other’s existence. At this point, Abouna (priest), from my father’s city in Egypt, had been practicing in Vancouver and “recommended” to my father that he knew a nice woman…

It took me a long time to realize the church’s power and influence transcending nations and communities. While I have known the church to be powerful, I had not anticipated the ease and familiarity of women being put in the same situations of their home country, as if they had not fled Egypt at all. 


Realization and Acceptance 

I watched as my father maintained the breadwinner status, working and coming home to moral (Arabic TV show) and eating the meal my mother cooked. I internalized my mother’s social, economic, and political status to mean that all women are weak. I felt powerless growing up and realized that eventually, I would seek economic, social, and political agency from a selfish, controlling, manipulative, and abusive older man. 

In this way, I accepted and believed that women were lower tier, only able to have any value by being with a man: this misconception and internalized misogyny manifested in my social groups, professional, and academic ambitions. Even as I experienced abuse and exploitation, I masked my emotions with a healthy smile that reflected how happy I was to be there. 

I genuinely believe that men validated my success by allowing me into their social circles. I felt a sense of accomplishment in the reality that I would not fall under the same stereotypical categories of women. However, I needed more from myself, and I sought everything within me to tolerate abuse and exploitation – assuming that this would make me a better woman. 


Economic Superiority 

I quickly realized my ambitions and strengths were in community organizing and the political sphere throughout my becoming a better woman. With this in mind, I could not succeed in this profession as a woman. As a result, I spent most of my high school experience justifying myself to the guys. Notably, one tall, handsome, and well-spoken man in my high school printed photos of himself with slogans across the school.

This guy was not inherently malicious. He was charismatic. He spent a lot of time speaking with others, at times talking with the intention only to speak. At times he interrupted. He generalized and made sweeping claims that supported his superiority among others. I was wary of his political ambitions, such as promoting himself across the school to advocate – but he was rarely criticized.

He was the school’s political superstar, who people said would end up in politics after graduating. In my final year in high school, I was intensely caught in a social group by my then-boyfriend, who refused to openly call me his girlfriend for over a year because it was a “headache” for him. Nevertheless, my then-boyfriend included me in his social circle, including the charismatic future politician.

When I spoke out, saying that there are some issues with what he is saying or that his political identity was overwhelmed by charisma rather than substance, I was mocked and shamed. I was told I could never be like him. I didn’t have an appeal. At that moment, I realized my place in their eyes. She must first justify why she is not as charismatic, popular, and influential as her male counterparts to achieve political success. 


Beauties of Patriarchy

But, why? Why was this guy, who had no substance to his message, better than me because he was charming? 

This is the world we live in today. Men are brought up confident, strong, and powerful. Meanwhile, women continue to pick up any crumbs left behind. Women must therefore fight to receive what is so quickly granted for men. In the Canadian context, women have only deemed “persons” in 1929. Not easily, I might add. Women had to fight against perpetual barriers to receive the bare minimum recognition of their value and worth. 

For this reason, women are disadvantaged and face profound challenges in succeeding in social, economic, and political spheres. In my experience with the “bros,” consisting of rape jokes and misogynistic and racial tropes, the absolute most joked about issue experienced by women is the gender wage gap.


Wage Gap Discourses 

In Canada, the wage gap consists of a 76.8 cent average is earned by full-time working women for every dollar men make. As a result, women earn 7,200 dollars less per year than men. As a result of the gender pay gap, women face poverty, health concerns, and they find it difficult to break free from abusive relationships. Economic agency, then, goes beyond economics.

With this in mind, counterarguments to the gender wage gap claim that it is a myth because, legally, men’s and women’s pay are legislated. However, Canada’s Human Rights Act does prohibit gender discrimination in pay. As a result, Statistics Canada consistently reports on the gender wage gap – confirming its existence and persistence within the Canadian economy. 


Tackling Economic Slavery

As women receive less than their male counterparts, economic slavery emerges as a rational reaction. Patriarchy has enabled men to benefit from vastly superior economic opportunities. The shackles of careerism are reinforced by entering male-dominated spheres and rewarding oneself with a beautiful wife. As a result, women are trapped in economic subordination.

Either a woman can play the game and condition themselves into acting like a man, or they can follow patriarchal norms and get married to someone who can support her. Are women capable of more?

The answer is overwhelming yes. Women can and will succeed no matter who their parents are, where they grew up, who their friends are, and their professional and academic ambitions. In understanding the barriers faced by women economically, there must therefore be strength in uplifting and supporting women. 

Even the little things that seem little build up and produce profound change. For women, that means being free of impositions of weakness and frailty in the face of systemic economic disadvantages. For example, learning, reading, and sharing your experiences is the opposite of weakness. 

The courage and strength of women to speak up must reach men, who need to realize the gravity of their place in society and work towards collaborative action. Economic subordination negatively impacts everyone. Community, therefore, has a responsibility to recognize, respect, and advance in a way that reflects women’s value and worth within economics.

For additional information on the gender wage gap:


Canadian Women’s Foundation

Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development Ontario 

Statistics Canada

OECD International Database

Canada Pay Equity Act

Gender Wage Gap Strategy Steering Committee Ontario


Monica Basilli is a weekly columnist with Ladiescorner.ca.


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