New Report: “Start From Zero”: Immigrant Women’s Experiences of the Gender Wage Gap

“Start From Zero”: Immigrant Women’s Experiences of the Gender Wage Gap

Christina Lessels, Ontario Women's Health Network

Click here for the final report

During the winter of 2017, OWHN had the opportunity to learn from 33 immigrant women in four Ontario communities about their experiences of the gender wage gap, including facilitators and barriers to equitable employment and the impacts on their lives. Their voices are heard throughout the report and inform the development of the project’s key findings and recommendations. The project also engaged with four cross-sector key informants to seek their perspectives on the intersectional gender wage gap in Ontario and support the development of innovative solutions.

As we were developing this project, we struggled with how to ask women about their experiences of the wage gap, as pay is often a hidden topic. However, what emerged across both the focus groups and interviews are the structural and systemic issues that perpetuate the gender wage gap and how they are disproportionately experienced by immigrant and racialized women.

Through women’s words, the findings demonstrate the barriers related to immigration policy and entering the labour market in Ontario, including:  

  • the disconnect between the “promise” and reality of Canadian immigration
  • the requirement of Canadian credentials and education
  • seeking “survival jobs”
  • precarious work and minimum wage
  • experiences of racism and discrimination  

These issues are further compounded by gendered caregiving roles and lack of accessible child care.

Focus group participants shared what they would like to say to employers and policy makers at provincial and federal levels about the changes to employment and immigration policy and practice that need to occur to address the barriers to equitable inclusion. Their suggestions and their lived experiences are at the core of the project’s Key Recommendations, which address:

  • immigration and labour policy
  • hiring and employment practices
  • social services and supports

The recommendations include both immediate actions to alleviate urgent issues faced by immigrant women under the current labour market as well as long term resolutions that address the systemic causes of discrimination and exclusion.  

This project was carried out with funding from the Pay Equity Office, Ministry of Labour, Government of Ontario

Click here for the project infographic