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Remembering the Montreal massacre

Dec 6 marks the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This event is commemorated each year to mark the deadly Montreal massacre at the Ecole Polytechnique in 1989. A gunman went on a shooting spree, killing 14 women, most of whom were engineering students.

This somber day raises awareness of gender-based crimes. The shooter, who later turned the gun on himself, proclaimed his hatred for feminists and was actively targeting women enrolled in the engineering program, since in his mind he believed it should be a field of study for men. This senseless massacre left Montreal wounded, but all people in Canada, especially women, feel the loss as well. It is unfortunate that we still endure crimes based on gender and sexuality.

The good news is that the shooting did not deter women from enrolling in STEM ( science, technology, engineering and mathematics). In Toronto, a community gathering will be taking place hosted by the Department of Engineering. This is just one example of many small and private remembrance ceremonies that will be held around Canada.

Professor Deepa Kundur was a first year engineering student at UofT when the massacre took place in 1989. Today, she is the chair of Engineering Science and a professor at the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. In the official press release, she noted the importance of her not being deterred by the shootings to leave an area of study.

“The university, the educational system is a very special and important place and it’s important to value education in fields like STEM where it provides opportunities for people where diverse backgrounds and opinions are needed very much.”

In Montreal, citizens are invited to attend the ceremony this evening at 5pm at the chalet on Mount Royal, which will feature 14 beams of light illuminating the night sky in memory of the 14 women who lost their lives. This is the 28th anniversary of what is still the worst mass shooting in Canadian history. Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau will be present to mark the ceremony and interact with other survivors of violence. The symbol in the campaign to end violence against women is a white ribbon.

The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women is part of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, which started on Nov 25. This year’s theme is #MyActionsMatter and calls on people to speak up against gender based violence. The final event for the 16 days of activism is International Human Rights Day on Dec 10.

Share positive thoughts in the movement towards ending violence against women. Comment below

Jagmeet Singh makes history in Canadian politics

In the short moments before the final results of the NDP leadership race were announced, many spectators in the crowd were already cheering for the clear frontrunner — Jagmeet Singh. The results were announced in alphabetical order and with 35,266 votes, Singh shot past by as much as 50 per cent to win the first ballot support with majority.

Singh’s campaign consisted of a vast network of volunteers and lots of social media influence across the county that helped make it so successful. The newly elected NDP leader made history in more than one way — he is the first person of colour to lead a major political party in Canada. Singh is a Sikh and son of Indian immigrants. His deep cultural and religious connections have given him the ability to speak on behalf of the minority or those marginalized in Canadian politics.

Singh proudly highlighted the fact that he is a visible minority in Canada and often speaks about the struggle of what it means to be racially profiled. As Singh once remarked in an magazine interview, “systematic racism is an undeniable reality. It impacts young people. I want every young person to recognize their own self-worth.” This touch of diversity in Canadian politics hopefully represents a political shift that will encourage other politicians of colour to make their presence known.

Singh follows in the footsteps of those like the late NDP leader Jack Layton, who was known for being very charismatic. He plans to address issues such as affordable housing, income inequality, relations with Indigenous tribes, and climate change among others.

During his acceptance speech after being elected on Sunday, Singh addressed his different look and said,  “It makes you feel like you don’t belong, like there is something wrong with you for just being you, And that is why as Prime Minister, I will make sure no one is stopped by the police because of the way they look, or the colour of their skin.”

 

 

Canada ranks number one for civil service gender equality

By Leanne Benn

The Global Government Forum, an organization that measures standards for gender- equality worldwide, ranks Canada as number one out of any G20 country. This ranking places Canada at the top of the civil service sector for having women in leadership positions.

According to the Women Leaders Index, released in September 2017, 46.4 per cent of senior civil servants in Canada are women. There is a 3.3 percentage point difference between Canada and Australia and the gap has been slowly closing over the past few years.

The data was gathered over three years from 2013 to 2016 and measured gender equality in leadership roles in G20 and EU countries. The goal of this forum is to highlight the countries that are leading the way for gender equal roles in federal or national governments, therefore encouraging other countries to do the same.

This is the first year the data has included research from countries outside the G20 with the inclusion of European Union countries. The data collected from the EU shows that these countries are more advanced in terms of gender equality than those included in the G20. Among 28 EU nations the average is 40 per cent high-ranking women.

This data analysis covers a broader base and as a result new fields of analysis were included this year. In addition to civil service leadership and women elected into political office, the forum examined women on private sector boards. It should be noted that in these sub-sector datas collections, Canada ranked low for women in private sector boards.

The discussion of gender inequality for high ranking positions has been long analyzed and female talent should be promoted within government structures. Canada’s most senior civil servant as of January 2016 was Janice Charette. Charette, in response to the index, said public service should represent the population in order to show they are doing the best job possible. The polices and the practices of high ranking countries can have an internal impact on HR management, staff development, recruitment, and the promotion of women.

“If you look at all the research on this, the value proposition for gender equality and diversity in leadership positions, whether in the public sector or the private sector, is very clear,” she said in the report. “And I would say that in the public sector it’s even more important, because if we are to have credible public service structures and institutions that are able to give good, thoughtful, strategic advice to governments, they have to understand and represent the population they are there to serve. That’s absolutely critical.”

However, there must be a political appetite in order to change the public leadership roles for women. For instance, both Canada and France have a cabinet that includes 50 per cent women. A strong political role is required for gender diversity and this is the only way conditions may improve.

How do you feel about Canada’s ranking and what are your thought on gender equality on a global level?

Gender parity could add $150 billion to Canada GDP

Pushing for gender equality in Canada could add $150 billion in incremental GDP in 2026, or at least that is what a new report released by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) is saying.

The report, entitled The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Canada, was released earlier this June and outlines a number of things Canada has to do in order to take advantage of this $150 billion opportunity. This includes being more than just a vocal supporter of gender parity.

Too often, companies outline goals for gender diversity on boards or make promises to consider more women in the hiring process — but there is no follow up or accountability. Seventy-five per cent of companies do not track female recruitment or reward leaders for fostering gender diversity. This means there is less accountability and goals of gender parity may actually never be achieved.

The report also indicates only 14 per cent of businesses have “clearly articulated a business case for change” when it comes to considering gender diversity.

Canada is ranked in the top 10 countries of 95 when it comes to women’s equality, but as the report says, “progress towards gender parity has stalled over the past 20 years, and Canada must find anew ways to keep pace.”

More importantly, women should be hired in “high-productivity sectors” such as mining and STEM-related industries. Currently, women only hold 29 per cent of political seats and hold 65 per cent of unpaid care work.

Canada’s GDP growth has slowed to approximately 2 per cent a year, according to the Canadian government. The report shows that unless Canadian businesses make a significant investment in women and continue to grow this rate will remain stagnate.

“A significant part of the solution is for Canada to tap into the vast unrealized potential of women. Accelerating progress toward gender equality is not only a moral and social imperative; it would also deliver a growth dividend.”

In order to see this GDP growth, businesses will not only have to hire more women (create 650,000 more jobs), but they also will need to raise the number of hours worked by female employees and raise productivity levels. The analysis found that the structure of each province’s economy had little factor into the state of gender inequality. Rather, it was formal policies that mandate quotas for women on boards of Crown corporation and universal child-care programs that determined economic gender inequality.

Women, the report says, are willing to work. Unfortunately, there are a number of barriers that either prevent them from doing so, or prevent them from growing in their role.

“This research highlights best practices in Canadian companies that others can emulate. But initiatives need to be implemented holistically and effectively, and measures to tackle gender imbalance in companies only work if they are considered to be a true business imperative. Changing attitudes takes time, and persistence is vital,” says Sandrine Devillard, a Senior Partner in McKinsey’s Montreal office, in a statement.

Hopefully, it doesn’t take too much time to change. Gender parity within the workplace is vital to both the social and economic success of this country — and yet, there are still gender gaps when it comes to positions of power, both in the private and public sector. How many reports like this are necessary before those with the power to do something actually change?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below! 

What’s the true cost of birth control in Ontario?

Women are forced to pay for birth control, feminine hygiene products and take responsibility for their fertility in a way that men are not. As a country that purports democracy and equality, steps need to be taken to ensure women aren’t forced to pay for much-needed products.

Birth control in Canada is expensive and cuts deep into the pockets of young women already trying to make ends meet. Without insurance, birth control has an added cost and women are expected to fork out the cash. One third of women in North America have reported struggling to pay for birth control at one point in their lives.By providing it for a cost in Canada, it questions whether protecting yourself is actually a right of women or is it instead a cash cow for greedy pharmaceutical companies who are actively taking advantage of women.

Birth control is universally covered in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and China, among other countries. Canada does not offer birth control for free or subsidized without insurance coverage, and this limits accessibility for women looking for different options.

 

After comparing prices at three different pharmacies in Toronto, the average prices for the five main types of birth control are astronomical. Mirena, a hormonal IUD offered by Bayer who is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Canada, has an average cost of $416. Though it lasts for five years, finding this type of money as a young woman is unrealistic and often prevents women from accessing this option.  The Nuva ring is the second most expensive option because it must be bought monthly. It is approximately $31 per month and this cost adds up quickly throughout the year to $328. Though oral birth control appears affordable month to month at $20, it adds up to $240 per year making it the third most costly option.

Women who are low-income have alternative options to seek cost-free birth control, but the availability is certainly limited. There are 14 sexual health clinics in Toronto, most with extremely limited drop-in hours. These clinics will help provide low-to-no cost birth control to women who need it, but these clinics have long waitlists and are drop-in only. Oftentimes, these clinics are so busy that there will be over 20 people waiting at the door prior to its opening.

Other options include Family Planning, which offers certain birth control options free and charges a discounted price for others. The IUD is discounted, but still has a price tag on it. If you are looking for an IUD as well, you must phone at the beginning of the month to schedule an appointment that will be at least three weeks later. The other option is the Bay Street Centre for Birth Control, but book quickly. The waitlist to book an appointment at the centre was three months long.

It is clear that Canada has is an issue when it comes to birth control. The act of charging women to protect themselves from getting pregnant is arguably discrimination.  Canada needs to join the other countries that have moved to universally cover the costs of birth control, and grant access for women of all incomes to different types of protection. Only then will I say that Canada is a country that truly supports the rights of women.

 

Nothing comes of Ontario’s Equal Pay Day

Ontario’s Equal Pay Day came and went without much fuss.

Women working full-time in the province only earn about 73.5 cents to every dollar a man makes. And this is in 2016.

April 19 marked Equal Pay Day in Ontario — the day in which a woman’s yearly earnings will catch up to the average salary of a man. In essence, it takes four extra months of work for a woman to make the same as a man.

Despite the fact that half of Canada’s cabinet are women and that our Prime Minister self-identifies as a feminist, there hasn’t been much done to ensure equality in the workplace. Ontario’s gender gap continues to grow. It’s gotten to the point where women in the United States are making on average five cents more than women in Ontario.

What’s even more surprising was that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne did not make a speech or even release a statement about Equal Pay Day. Instead, a press release was sent out early Tuesday morning regarding the results of consultations conducted by Ontario’s Gender Wage Gap Steering Committee. The report was the product of 18 weeks of surveys and in-person conversation.

The women who participated in the consultation said they often felt as if they have to prove themselves in the workplace and that some fields, especially early childhood education, should be presented as a gender-equal profession. At the same time, schools should be encouraging women to get involved in STEM fields or skilled trades at a young age.

The press release also provided an overview of everything the Ontario government has done over the last year to help reduce this gender gap. Some of these initiatives include the following:

  • A regulation that requires company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange to report on their approach to increase the number of women in management positions.
  • Increase wages by $2 an hour (including benefits) for early childhood educators and child care professionals.
  • Increase hourly wages of personal support workers
  • Invest $120 million over three years for new licensed child care spaces in schools
  • Implementing a number of training programs for skilled trades, information technology, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship.

These are all beneficial programs and regulations that will no doubt encourage more women to aim for managerial positions, but it isn’t nearly enough. Many of these regulations involve increasing wages of typically female jobs like child care worker or a personal support worker, instead of putting the onus on businesses to hire women in positions of power.

Regulations and programs are great, but a change in mentality is necessary to actually reduce the gender gap. How does this start? It begins by rewarding companies that hire using equal opportunity, encouraging more women to apply for managerial or board positions, and addressing the stigmas that are so obviously engrained in the hiring process.

Three years ago Ontario announced Equal Pay Day. It remains the only province to have done so. In a country that prides itself on equality, its shocking that more governments aren’t following suit and bringing awareness to the startling inequality that exists within the workplace.