John Tory’s gender wage gap comments land him in hot water

John Tory would have us believe the backlash he's experiencing following his remarks on women and the gender wage gap is a “manufactured controversy.”

But, let's face it, if that is what this is, he is the man at the controls.

Tory, a radio talk show host and a rumoured candidate in Toronto’s mayoral race, has found himself on the defensive after he blurted out during a televised interview his thoughts on why women continue to earn less money than their male peers in the workplace.

Among the more notable comments, Tory recalled how, during the early days of a law career, the men in his firm were far more likely to negotiate over wages with than women.

“The women don’t come as often to complain. The men do, so my experience is a little different in that I do think that more men put a fuss up about their money,” he told CP24 host Stephen LeDrew.

Cue the outrage. Both women and men quickly took to Twitter to register their dismay, with many using the hashtag #outoftouch.

Tory's later efforts to dig himself out of the hole only seemed to mire him further.

Speaking to the issue on Newstalk 1010, Tory set off a whole new fury, and an accompanying hashtag, after he said learning to play golf would be “immensely beneficial” to a young woman's career.

According to a recent Statistics Canada study, women working full time earned about 83 per cent of what men did in 2011. When both part-time and full-time workers are tallied, that number drops to about 76 per cent, based on average weekly wages.

The reasons behind the continued disparity are as complex as they are controversial.

But Beatrix Dart, associate dean at the University of Toronto`s Rotman School of Management, said Tory is not wrong when he pointed out the differences between how men and women negotiate.

Indeed, women are typically far less willing than their male counterparts to ask for more money or benefits during negotiations with a boss or potential employer, Dart said.

Sometimes women don't want to appear to be overly aggressive. Other studies indicate woman are more likely to be perceived in a negative light if they do negotiate.

The result?

“In many cases, women are almost willing to accept what is offered and often don't negotiate at all,” Dart said.

That does not mean women can't negotiate well. Dart said there is ample research to show women are as effective, or more effective, at negotiation when they are doing it on some else's behalf, whether that's a client, a parent, a child or a friend.

Alex Johnston, executive director of Catalyst Canada, said the current obsession over negotiation styles, and which gender is better under pressure, is misleading. The bigger conversation she urged business leaders to have is around the patterns and behaviours within their own organizations that are holding women back from achieving their full potential.

A 2011 Catalyst paper revealed that even when women did all the things they have been told will help them get ahead -- using the same tactics as men -- they still advanced less than their male counterparts and had slower pay growth.

Catalyst released another major study last year tracking MBA graduates around the world. The report, entitled High-Potential Employees in the Pipeline: Maximizing the Talent Pool in Canadian Organizations, found that Canadian women MBA grads earn $8,167 less than men in their first post-MBA jobs, start out a lower job level and are offered fewer career-accelerating work experiences and international postings.

For more on the social reaction, check out the Storify below: