Article Submitted by KDLC executive member, Harmony Ráine, seen here presenting a donation by the KDLC to the Kamloops Women’s Resource Group Society to help them continue on their amazing work protecting and promoting women.
(*The word “women” includes anyone who identifies as a woman)
If you think women have achieved equality with men, you are mistaken. If you think women in Canada, the United States, or other parts of the developed world enjoy a reasonable level of equality with men, you are still wrong. Sadly, even in 2016, gender parity remains very elusive.
The 2015 Global Gender Gap Index ranked 145 countries on measures of health, education, economic, and political equality between men and women; and shockingly, Canada ranks only 30th in gender parity worldwide.
In order to assess equality, we must examine economic equality (or parity), because money provides people with the means to achieve other types of equality (ie: education, health care, and political participation). Highlighting the gendered wage gap makes glaringly apparent just how much inequality still exists between the sexes.
Canada’s low overall equality ranking is largely due to our massive wage gap:
- Canadian working women earn about $8,000 less per year than men doing an equivalent job
- Based on average weekly wages of all Canadian workers (full- and part-time), women earned just 75.3% of men’s income (2014) – a wage gap that is double the global average
- A gap this wide means that Canadian women must work more than 70 additional days each year to catch up to men, and
- The average Canadian full-time working woman will lose more than $460,000 over a 40 year period due to pay disparity
- Worldwide, many more women than men complete university and enter skilled professions; but women tend to be unable to reach the top of their professions in the same ways men do.
- Canadian women make up half of Canada’s labour force, but comprise only 3 percent of Canadian CEOs and 15.9 percent of board seats in S&P / TSX 60 companies (2013). The political landscape is similar.
Importantly, these are not only well-paying occupations; but are high level, high profile positions that entail decision-making and policy implementation.
Women remain severely underrepresented in higher paying, male-dominated fields as well as STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), senior executive positions, and roles in government. This is NOT because women are disinterested or “not well suited” to these careers, or because they are more interested in raising a family than making money. These are just excuses based on common stereotypes of women. Women have a wide range of interests, talents, and aptitudes and are willing and capable of taking on a variety of challenges.
Research shows that women are not encouraged – or are actively discouraged – from studying in certain fields or entering various trades and occupations by a plethora of family and social pressures, as well as conscious and unconscious biases and overt bullying and discrimination in schools, workplaces, and society. Women also face numerous, persistent structural barriers such as poor economic conditions and labour market prospects, inadequate enforcement of human rights legislation and labour laws, and weak provisions for maternity leaves and child care.
As the primary caregivers for children and other family members, women suffer economic losses that are generally unrecoverable, and that are never experienced or understood by most men. When women spend extended periods of their lives out of the paid workforce for maternity leaves and other family-related obligations, the enormous impact of lost wages is compounded by deficits in education, skills training, upgrading, mentoring, career advancement, and confidence – not to mention the high cost of daycare when they return to work.
Employment equity programs and other measures intended to level the playing field have unfortunately become a necessary evil for women and other marginalized groups, who have been systematically denied equal opportunities to learn, earn, and survive in our supposed democratic, multicultural society. It is even sadder that already marginalized people who must take advantage of equity programs often experience backlash and resentment in both society and the workplace, accused of trying to “work the system” or “get special treatment.” To these comments, women can only reply that our “special treatment” consists of working longer for less money and recognition than men, while raising families; and likely losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the wage gap over our working lifetimes
Since about 2002 the global wage gap has remained almost stagnant. Experts suggest that at the present rate, the gap will take at least another 118 years to close completely.
In a seemingly progressive move, Canada’s newly elected Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attempted some partial redress for women’s lack of representation in the federal government by appointing women to 15 of 31 cabinet posts. When asked to explain his rationale for what has been dubbed “Canada’s first gender-balanced cabinet,” Trudeau simply replied, “Because it’s 2015.”
I am cautiously optimistic, but fear that Trudeau’s apparently sincere gesture might lack substance and any real plan to create sustainable equity in the lives, working conditions, and ongoing struggles of average Canadian workers and citizens – especially marginalized members.
Sheila Malcolmson, the NDP’s Status of Women Critic, asserts, “There’s no excuse for the fact that women in Canada continue to make substantially less than men” and is outraged that Canada is “lagging far behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to pay equity.” She states that the NDP will be calling on the Trudeau government to take action on the unacceptable wage gap between Canadian men and women, push the Liberals to “recognize pay equity as a right,” and implement recommendations made by a 2004 pay equity task force.
Because of massive, ongoing, courageous work by women, past and present feminist activists, and our allies, women have made monumental progress toward achieving better equity. These efforts cannot be understated, but we are not ‘there’ yet.
International Women’s Day was created to draw attention to gender inequalities and provide the impetus for consciousness-raising, dialogue, and activism that can lead to meaningful social change for women. The theme for International Women’s Day 2016 is “Pledge for Parity.” Pledging for parity can help women and girls to achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive cultures, and eradicate workplace bias, discrimination, resentment, and backlash.
Women’s equality doesn’t take anything away from men. “What’s good for women is good for business, is good for men, is good for families, is good for economies” – Deborah Gillis
Our mothers, daughters, sisters, partners, grandmothers, aunts, friends, co-workers, and fellow union activists deserve real equity and parity with men. Not just because it’s 2016 and it’s about time, but because it’s right.
To learn more about International Women’s Day 2016, visit: International Women’s Day
To Pledge For Parity, go to: Pledge for Parity