July 16, 2015 6:45 pm
Updated: July 16, 2015 7:02 pm

Conservative MP’s take on wage-gap? Choose better-paying jobs

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WATCH: A new survey looking specifically at women and work in Canada found there is a still a big gender gap when it comes to pay, jobs and safety. So, it came as a surprise that a Conservative MP blamed women, saying the good jobs are out there but women just aren’t going for them. Laura Stone reports.

OTTAWA – Conservative MP Joan Crockatt has drawn the ire of critics for saying the so-called “wage gap” has to do with women choosing lower-paying jobs.

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“Women are choosing professions that aren’t as high-paying, and some of that is completely understandable and by choice, but if women want higher paying jobs, those jobs are out there waiting for them,” the former journalist said.

Speaking at an event in Calgary on Wednesday, Crockatt said women should explore opportunities in science and technology, as well as skilled trades.

“We know we have a shortage of skilled labour in this province. Hello women, there’s your opportunities,” she said.

READ MORE: Canada’s best and worst cities to be a woman: report

But critics say her government is out of touch with gender inequality.

“No woman chooses to be paid inequitably,” said NDP MP Peggy Nash.

“Yes of course we want to encourage women to get into science, technology, trades,” she said. “But it’s not a matter of personal choice. We have women who are highly educated but still don’t have pay equity.”

Liberal MP Hedy Fry agreed the Conservatives are “out of touch” on women’s issues.

“A lot of women who want to climb up to the top and go into the high paying ranks, find that if they have kids, they have a difficulty in trying to balance that work-life thing.”

READ MORE: Gender wage gap for B.C. women in workforce prompts calls for change

In June, the status of women committee – which Crockatt sits on – studied women in the workforce.

It found women make up nearly half of all workers in Canada. They hold 22 per cent of all jobs in science, technology, engineering and math.

And while they continue to work more in the skilled trades, women currently make up only 5 per cent of the industry.

READ MORE: Why Calgary ranks as the third worst city in Canada for women

Researcher Kate McInturff says it doesn’t matter what the job is – women almost always make less than men.

“For 97 per cent of women, whatever occupation that they choose to pursue, they’re going to meet a wage gap,” said McInturff, a senior researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“If you’re a woman working in mining, oil and gas, even full-time, you’re only making 65 cents on the dollar compared to your male peers.”

McInturff recently completed a study about the best and worst places to be a woman in Canada.

The study found Victoria and Gatineau – government towns with robust wages – had the best jobs for women. Quebec also ranked high due to subsidized child care and generous paternal leave.

The worst cities for women were Kitchener-Waterloo, Calgary and Edmonton – where men dominated the high-paying positions.

You can find the full report,The Gender Gap in Canada’s 25 Biggest Cities, and more highlights from it below.

Crockatt agreed more needed to be done, including flexible child care options. But she chose to focus on what women can do to improve their skills, including immigrant women new to Canada.

“We have to make sure they know where the opportunities exist and that they’re trained to be able to get those opportunities,” she said.

Global News reached out to Crockatt to clarify her comments, but did not get a response.

A spokeswoman for Status for Women Minister Kellie Leitch said in a statement the Conservatives continue to empower women’s economic development.

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Credit: Janet Cordahi, Global News

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