Gender Equality Series
September 22-28, 2019 marks Canada’s second Gender Equality Week – an important opportunity for people from coast to coast to coast to celebrate the progress we’ve made in advancing gender equality in Canada, while also reflecting on what work still remains to make sure that everyone – regardless of their gender – can reach their full potential.
Over the last year, Canada has made significant strides towards achieving Gender Equality; increasing investment in womxn* led businesses, creating legislation to help eliminate barriers that womxn face in society and committing to long-term, sustainable health investment to fill critical gaps that womxn and girls face around the world.
While these are all important steps, there is still room for improvement! Most importantly, it is imperative that we hold the government, organizations (private, not-for-profit and public) as well as each other accountable to continue to push for change so that gender equality remains a top priority for everyone.
Here are 5 Reasons Why Canadians Should (Still) Care About Gender Equality:
Gender Wage Gap
Despite the 1987 Pay Equity Act, the Gender Wage Gap is still prevalent in Canada. According to Statistics Canada womxn workers in Canada earned an average of 84 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2019. This wage gap diminishes Canadian womxn’s earning power, decreases their financial independence and keeps more womxn stuck in the cycle of poverty. We can change this! Womxn are key drivers of change within their communities and when they succeed, the economy thrives! The key to closing the gender wage gap is getting commitment from leadership - you can do this by holding your place of work accountable and push for them to create policies and procedures that help advance womxn and work towards equalizing the pay grid.
Womxn in Canada are disproportiantly affected by gender based violence (GBV), including but not limited to: domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment, and sex trafficking. What is even scarier is that this violence often occurs at the hands of someone they know, and this statistic compounds when looking at marginalized identities. For example, statistics show that Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women. You can help put a stop to this by believing survivors and supporting your local domestic violence services and violence prevention programs.
Although universal in name, Canada’s health-care system doesn’t function the same for everyone - this is the health gap. This means that womxn are underrepresented in research, face gender bias navigating the health-care system and limited or restricted access to essential reproductive care depending on where they live in Canada. You can help by lobbying for continued legislation that ensures healthcare is gender-responsive and upholds the essential sexual and reproductive health and rights for womxn.
Women make up just over half of the Canadian population, yet only comprise 19.5% of the board members for Canada’s top 500 companies and hold just 8.5% of the highest-paid positions in Canada’s top 100 listed companies. When women are underrepresented in leadership roles, we miss out on their ideas, talents and expertise. If you are in a position of power, use your privilege to lift up the womxn around you and check out this resource if you are interested in a way to get started!
Gender Equality Gap
Gender equality does not exist in a vacuum; it exists within broader systems of oppression. It not only affects womxn because of their gender but it also fits within other systems of disadvantage that disproportionately affect minority identities. These systems of oppression overlap and their effects are compounded. That is why it is not enough to simply think of Gender Equality as a “womxn’s issue”; it is far more complicated and involves a series of other, overlapping factors. In order to take concrete steps to change gender inequality, it is important/helpful to step outside the box and look at how gender intersects with other issues. It is through this understanding that you can actually begin to solve systemic problems, not replace one with another.
These are just 5 examples of how gender inequality is present in Canada today. While we may still have a long way to go, the important first step is recognizing that something needs to change! There are many small things that you can do in your everyday life to make the world a little bit of a better place for everyone; believe and support survivors of domestic violence, donate your money or time to a worthy cause or use your privilege to support womxn in your workplace because in the end gender equality is not just a “womxn’s issue”, it’s everyone’s issue and by achieving it everyone benefits!
* The use of womxn is inclusive to all individuals who identify as female including but not limited to genderfluid, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, non-binary and trans individuals.