How does gender bias occur in the valuing of jobs?
Gender bias occurs when aspects of work typically done by women are assigned less value than they should and/or aspects of work typically done by men are given higher value by the employer. For example:
- Manual and repair skills for a mechanic or service personnel are recognized but dexterity skills of a typist or multi-tasking skills of a receptionist are not.
- The physical effort required for lifting heavy objects in a stocker job class is taken into account, but the moving of objects in the cashier job class is overlooked.
- Responsibility for spending authority and budgetary control is recognized, but responsibility for protecting confidentiality or handling customer complaints is not.
- Stress of working with noisy machinery is valued, but the stress of dealing with irate or aggressive customers is overlooked.
Gender bias can also occur if jobs or job evaluation factors are described differently, using different or value-laden terms for men’s and women’s jobs. For example, if both men and women in a workplace perform similar supervisory roles, the men’s job may be described as “managing” while the women’s job may be labelled “coordinating”, assigning different values based on the term used. Similarly, if men’s jobs are described in greater detail than women’s jobs, it might suggest that men’s jobs are more significant. Finally, if aspects of the job are omitted, or inadequately described, they will not be included in the evaluation.
Previously, compensation systems made women’s work invisible. Originally, job evaluation was designed and applied in industrial and manufacturing workplaces and to managerial positions. When these systems were applied to all jobs within a workplace or used to assess jobs in the health, service and office sectors, few changes were made to the underlying assumptions on which the value of jobs was assessed. The skills, ability and experience of women in these jobs were not recognized, leading to an inaccurate valuation, resulting in lower wages paid Ontario Nurses’ Association v. Regional Municipality of Haldimand-Norfolk, 1992 CanLII 4705 (ON PEHT).
What makes the job comparison process gender neutral?
Employers must ensure that every component of the job comparison process is gender neutral. In the Haldimand-Norfolk case, the Tribunal stated that bias in one component means the system or tool as a whole is not gender neutral and must be eliminated. The Tribunal identified four components in the job comparison process:
- The accurate collection of job class information.
- The mechanism or tool to determine the value of job classes.
- The application of the mechanism or tool to determine the value of the work.
- The comparison of job classes.