Gender Inequality and the Role of Women in Education
by Heidi Yetman, President  |  2018-02-16

After reading an article entitled Why do Men Make More Money than Women, I was reminded of a piece I had written for my Thesis in Art Education. What struck me the most was that the #MeToo movement may be linked to the pay gap. In the Maclean's article, Toronto-based human rights lawyer Fay Faraday says, "The pay gap fosters an environment in which women have less economic security and less economic power. That makes them targets for those who want to take advantage of that power differential."

Here's the excerpt I wrote.

"The fact that most elementary-school teachers then and now are women provides us with a key element in understanding why there have often been attempts by state bureaucrats, industry and (a largely male body of) Academics to control the curricular and teaching practices in classrooms." (Apple, 1984, p.456)

Women did not always dominate teaching. Before the 1870's in the United States and in England men dominated the teaching field. (Apple, 1984) At that time, teaching was a supplement job for men. It is the growth of compulsory schooling and the shift of teaching being "women's work" that made the number of women supersede men. It was also convenient that women were much cheaper to hire. Women were paid half the salary of men in the United States in the late nineteenth century. Since the teaching job required certification and the hours and length of school years were extended, for men, the salaries were no longer adequate to raise a family. Men who remained in the educational field tended to take administrative or managerial positions.

Since education is a public service and it is dominated by women[1], when governments decide to cut back spending, women are hurt. According to Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)[2] in a research document entitled Making Women Count, investing in good public services benefits everyone. Not only would it provide good paying jobs for women, it benefits the economy. One of the CCPA's recommendations to create a more gender equal Canada is to invest money into the public sectors. Unfortunately, in the past few years in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, austerity has been the dominant force in government tactics. If governments invest in the highly women dominated fields, like education, homecare services, nursing and childcare, the economy would do much better. A great example of this inequality is in Alberta. Most high paid jobs in the oil sector are male dominated, and when oil prices fell families had to rely on women who were in comparatively low waged jobs.

A new study coming out of Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, has found it is the different occupations between men and women that is the main cause of the gender pay gap. In fact, another study in the same article suggests that as soon as women enter a field the pay drops. An example is when a large number of women entered the designer field, the salaries dropped by 34 percentage points. "It may come down to this troubling reality: work done by women simply isn't valued highly." (Miller, 2016)


Apple, Michael W. "Teaching and "Women's Work": A Comparative Historical and Ideological Analysis." Journal of Education 166.3 (1984): 455-75. Web. 2 July 2016.

Miller, Claire Cain. "As Women Take Over a Male-Dominated Field, the Pay Drops." The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Mar. 2016. Web. 02 July 2016.

[1] According to Statistics Canada, 73% of full time public educators were women in 2014.

[2] The CCPA is an independent, non-partisan research institute concerned with issues of social, economic and environmental justice. Founded in 1980, the CCPA is one of Canada's leading progressive voices in public policy debates.