Terms of Reference - Gender Wage Gap Strategy Steering Committee


This Government is committed to women’s equality in Ontario. It has taken steps to strengthen women's economic opportunities through investments in education, training programs, full-day kindergarten, and child care. It has developed strategies, such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy, Ontario Immigration Strategy, Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment, and Changing Workplaces Review to address barriers preventing women's full participation in the labour force.

But women, on average, continue to earn less than men in Ontario. Based on the most recent data available from Statistics Canada, in 2011 Ontario’s gender wage gap ranged from 12% to 31.5%.

The gender wage gap is complex and caused by many factors, including gender workplace discrimination, career choices, caregiving responsibilities, education, credentialism, employee representation in workplace, and business culture. Women throughout the economic spectrum are affected by the wage gap, and the gap is larger for women who are racialized, Aboriginal, newcomers, or living with disabilities.

This wage gap will persist unless greater efforts are made by all levels of government and by businesses, labour, organizations and individual leaders to understand and remove the barriers. These barriers are not only problematic for women and other disadvantaged groups, they also prevent Ontario from leveraging the skills and capabilities of all of its men and women to strengthen our economy. Closing the wage gap is not only good for women, it is good for all Ontarians.

The development of a Gender Wage Gap Strategy (“Strategy”) will build on the progress made by this Government so far in improving the economic and social situation of women in Ontario, and could significantly improve Ontario’s economic outcomes.


In the Minister of Labour’s 2014 Mandate Letter, the Premier charged the Minister with “leading the development of a wage strategy”. Furthermore in the Mandate Letter, the Premier stated:

"Women make up an integral part of our economy and society, but on average still do not earn as much as men. You will work with the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues and other ministers to develop a wage gap strategy that will close the gap between men and women in the context of the 21st century economy."

Mandate and Scope

The Ministry of Labour (MOL) will develop recommendations for this Government’s Strategy taking into account the recommendations of a steering committee (the “Gender Wage Gap Strategy Steering Committee” or “Committee”). Two External Advisors will be appointed to the Committee by the Minister of Labour. The Pay Equity Commissioner and the MOL Executive Lead will be ex officio members of the Committee.

The purposes of the Committee are to:

  1. identify the factors causing or affecting Ontario’s gender wage gap;
  2. assess the impact of government actions, business practices, social norms, and other factors, on the gap;
  3. assess initiatives in other jurisdictions that may be applicable to Ontario;
  4. following the parameters below, create recommendations for this Government on a strategy, including actions for government, business, labour, other organizations, and individual leaders, to close the gender wage gap.

The Committee shall:

  1. examine how the gender wage gap affects women in their work and how they engage with their families and their community;
  2. examine how the gender wage gap specifically affects different working women across the economic spectrum and include statistical analyses if available;
  3. examine ways in which government, business, labour, other organizations, and individual leaders can work together to address the conditions and the systemic barriers that lead to the gap;
  4. consider whether Ontario’s existing legislation (including Ontario’s Pay Equity Act, the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and the Human Rights Code) sufficiently addresses the gender wage gap, but without recommending legislative amendments;
  5. where members of the Committee deem it appropriate, include a cost/benefit analysis of the recommendations, taking into consideration all factors they consider relevant, including the impact on employers, Ontario’s fiscal situation and societal interests in closing the gender wage gap;
  6. where practical, include a method to evaluate and measure the results of the recommendations;
  7. ensure that the recommendations do not infringe upon other government programs, initiatives and processes (e.g. the Changing Workplaces Review, and Ontario’s minimum wage legislation), although the recommendations may take these into account; and
  8. request the Ministry of Labour to conduct other research or analysis as may be necessary to provide recommendations to this Government on how to create an effective Strategy in the context of a 21st-century economy.


The Committee will report back to the Minister of Labour and the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues within seven months of the External Advisors’ appointments with a preliminary consultation summary. The Committee will report back within ten months of the External Advisors’ appointments with written recommendations.

If these recommendations are not completed within the initial ten-month period, the Minister of Labour may extend the date for their completion for a period not to exceed three additional months.

Key Roles and Responsibilities

1. Gender Wage Gap Strategy Steering Committee

The Committee will lead public consultations with Ontarians, including releasing a consultation paper and holding targeted regional stakeholder meetings to receive input on the gender wage gap and related issues.

Following the consultations, the Committee will provide a consultation summary and written recommendations. Decisions of the Committee should be made by consensus but could include options. Each option must state clearly who is affected, how goals are to be evaluated and measured, and must be in accordance with these Terms of Reference.

The MOL Executive Lead will also chair an internal Ontario Public Service (OPS) Working Group, which will be comprised of directors from affected ministries. The OPS Working Group will provide internal advice on the gender wage gap consultations and recommendations, and then this Government’s Strategy, as well as identify linkages and potential costs or other impacts on other government activities or initiatives.

2. Ministry of Labour / Ontario Women's Directorate / Pay Equity Office

The Ministry of Labour will work with the Ontario Women's Directorate and the Pay Equity Office to support the Committee throughout the process by providing policy research and secretariat support, coordinating consultations and meetings (internal / external), and facilitating any administrative and technical needs, where appropriate.


The Committee will examine academic and inter-jurisdictional research, and solicit feedback from stakeholders and the public through a consultation paper and targeted regional consultation sessions, surveys, and social media.

Based on the research and feedback from stakeholders and the public, the Committee will report back to the Minister of Labour as specified in the “Timing” section, above.

Following the submission of the recommendations, the Ministry of Labour, in consultation with the Ontario Women’s Directorate and ministries in the OPS Working Group, will consider how to develop a strategy to close the gender wage gap.

Ethics, Governance and Accountability

The External Advisors and the Pay Equity Commissioner are accountable to the Minister of Labour. The MOL Executive Lead is accountable to the Minister of Labour, through the Deputy Minister of Labour. They will report to the Minister of Labour on such matters and at such times as the Minister may request.

The Deputy Minister of Labour, or her or his designate, is responsible for approving all expense claims, subject to Ontario Public Service guidelines. Expense claims shall be submitted through protocol established by the Ministry of Labour.

The External Advisors will comply with the Government of Ontario’s directives and principles with respect to ethics and accountability. The MOL Executive Lead and the Pay Equity Commissioner are bound by their Oaths of Office.

It is the responsibility of the Committee to identify any actual or potential conflicts of interest that may arise during the term of their appointment. The External Advisors will keep their work on the Gender Wage Gap Strategy separate and independent from any other work they may be undertaking. If a conflict of interest arises, they will bring it to the attention of the Deputy Minister of Labour, who in turn will bring it to the attention of the Office of the Minister of Labour, which will then consult with the Premier’s Office, Public Appointments, for further direction.

Furthermore, the External Advisors must comply with Article 3.3 (Ethical Framework) of the Agencies & Appointments Directive (Management Board of Cabinet: February, 2015) as may be amended from time to time.