A local pub has come up with a creative way to draw attention to the gender pay gap in Canada; through the medium of clam chowder.
The Morrissey House has made national headlines with a new promotion called "Mind the Gap," which offers women a 13 per cent discount on lunch and dinner items every Monday. The promotion, according to the owner, is a nod to the gender pay gap in Canada, with women earning only 87 cents an hour for every dollar made by men.
One London man says he's determined to lodge a formal complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission on the grounds that the discount is a case of gender discrimination.
But this promotion is a laudable attempt to draw attention to a very real problem in the Canadian workforce. It’s entirely symbolic, of course — right down to the 13 per cent discount, as the remainder of the 87 cent per dollar disparity — but it gets the right conversations started. Treating different types of people differently is not necessarily discrimination, and a democratic society should be aiming for equity, not just equality. Income can be one of the most basic battlegrounds for that ideal.
One interesting issue this does raise is the ability of a business to choose who they serve, and how they serve them. But what if the polarity was reversed, for example, and a cake store refused to sell their product to a same-sex couple? This would evidently be a problem. Thankfully, we have government institutions like the OHRC to provide checks and balances and help ensure the province's businesses remain fair.
This is why, ultimately, this potential complaint to the OHRC shouldn't be overly criticized. Not only is this nameless citizen exercising his democratic right to complain, a ruling from the OHRC will codify our society's position on initiatives like "Mind the Gap" — precedent could be set.
We are confident the OHRC, like us, will not condemn this discount as discriminatory. As stated, you can treat two different groups of people differently without engaging in discrimination; that is the whole premise of equity. It’s clear that for any rigorous or thorough analysis, you need to consider that women have been, historically and socially, disenfranchised: hence the gender pay gap, and hence the legitimacy of this promotion.
Is this the grand thrust which will finally topple the patriarchy? No — it’s a lunch deal from a local pub. But change, at a societal level, has to come from somewhere, and this is a good starting point: if independent businesses start to accept and redress the realities of the gender pay gap, we may see an eventual butterfly-effect result at a governmental and societal level. After all, for the specific case of the gender pay gap, it is the businesses themselves with the reins of power, and they are the final arbiters on how much employees are paid.
We’ll see how the OHRC complaint pans out. But until then, The Morrissey House should be praised for their progressive approach to the systemic problem of the gender pay gap. The complaint is misguided, but potentially valuable nonetheless. Maybe we can’t fix the pay gap with a meal deal, but hey — it’s a start.