The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) wants to see an end to the ‘Bachelorette Degree.’ Or rather, the group wants to draw attention to the gender pay gap in Ontario affecting female university graduates.
“It’s fun. It’s flirty. It’s feminine. It will earn graduates 30 per cent less. By taking advantage of the Bachelorette Degree discount plan, graduates can expect up to 30 per cent off their future earnings,” exclaims a mock campaign video from OUSA, filmed at Western earlier this year.
Women who graduate from university make roughly $300,000 less over the course of their career, when compared to male university graduates, according to Statistics Canada. And the Pay Equity Commission of Ontario calculates the overall gender pay gap in Ontario to still be at 30 per cent.
OUSA was contacted by the commission and given a grant to run a campaign.
“We just floated around the idea of the ‘bachelorette’ degree – which is obviously focused on satire, showing in this day and age, even though we don’t think it’s necessarily an issue, women do make significantly less than men,” said Jen Carter, OUSA president and outgoing vice-president (external) for the University Students’ Council at Western. “The intent was to raise awareness to this issue, to make sure we could empower young people to talk about it.”
The campaign to end the Bachelorette Degree officially launched in February, Carter noted, adding it is ongoing, with another video on the way.
“Every year, on April 16, governments across the world, including the United Nations Women’s Network, focus on pay equity and what we can do to achieve that, and to help push that agenda. The campaign doesn’t have a set end date – but something that has a natural evolution,” she said.
While reception and feedback so far has been positive, Carter said she was surprised to see negative pushback from some feminist groups.
“It’s telling and interesting to think a women’s group would be concerned about a campaign like this. The criticism we got was the notion of a bachelorette degree promotes a gender binary. My argument would be – you’re getting angry about the right thing,” she explained. “You’re getting angry about the fact there is a gender binary. We’re not saying there should be a gender binary and a difference between the bachelor and bachelorette degree – we’re saying there actually is a difference, and you should be upset about this.”
The entire campaign was done by students, Carter noted.
“When you’re doing your undergrad, you’re so worried about getting good grades, and making sure you’re passing all your classes and moving on to the next thing. But you don’t ever really think the opportunity you get after you leave Western might be different than any other person, because you’ve put in the exact same amount of work,” Carter said. “Our intent with this is to really make sure young women at Western, and young women across the province, understand this is still a very real challenge.
“If we empower young graduates with the knowledge this is an issue, they might, when meeting with an employer and getting a job offer, be willing to ask for more and to push that envelope and ask for the salary because they know it’s an issue.”