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?

Stick to your knitting Minnan-Wong, Keesmaat is out of your league

“Stick to your knitting.” Reaction to this phrase can be mixed — and it completely depends on the context in which it is used.

For example, using it in a business meeting to indicate that employees should play to their strengths while allowing others to do the same is a commonly acceptable use of the phrase. “Stick to the knitting” when used by a professional colleague to describe an incredibly accomplished woman who has her foot in all aspects of her craft can come across as derogatory, sexist, and downright rude.

Toronto Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong is being accused of sexism for using the phrase in relation to outgoing Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat in an interview with the Toronto Sun last week. Minnan Wong said this in response to Keesmaat’s use of Twitter and how she debates municipal affairs publicly on the platform.

The history of “stick to your knitting” is a bit obscure, but the phrase has been used widespread in the business community since the mid 1800s. Many business professionals use this phrase when giving advice to young entrepreneurs. Stick to what you know and let others stick to what they know. That way you have the benefit of different experience instead of pretending to be an expert in all fields.

And yet, many politicians get in trouble for using this common phrase — and it’s all because of the context. Especially considering most of the time it’s used to describe women.

Despite its history, the phrase in itself is slightly derogatory. The person who uses it is telling their co-worker they don’t value their opinions. As a woman, this is especially offensive because women fight hard to be heard in the first place. In the case of Keesmaat, she has expertise in city building and most of her tweeting revolves around different aspects of this field. To say she shouldn’t have an opinion on how the City of Toronto is run and/or built is a bit farfetched and, frankly, sexist.

There is also the democracy angle that makes the use of this phrase even more strange. Minnan-Wong decided that posting discussion on city affairs on Twitter was not appropriate, but isn’t public discussion a foundation of democracy? Keesmaat has previously told Women’s Post that defending her planning choices and discussing them with the public was a critical step for accountability. In that case, her activity on social media is an extension of her role as city planner and an active citizen.

“If you have planners gone wild you could end up in a totalitarian type of environment, so the due diligence that comes from the vigour of being questioned by councillors and by the public is an essential part of the planning process from my perspective,” she said.

Why shouldn’t Keesmaat, or any person for that matter, use social media as a platform for public discussion? If everyone on Twitter was told to stick to their knitting, then it would be a pretty boring place. The whole purpose of social media is to allow people to share information and opinions.

And then there is the final point — why would Minnan-Wong care about the social media habits of a city staff member who is leaving their position in a month’s time? The only reason to use this phrase is to remind them that once they leave city hall, their opinions shouldn’t matter. Well, what does that mean for the rest of us? I hope Minnan-Wong’s constituents don’t have any opinions they want to share or ideas they want to suggest, because it appears like he won’t be listening to them.

Ultimately, Minnan-Wong made the same mistake many politicians make — trying to create a sound bite using clichés, hyperbole, and commonly used phrases in order to capture the attention of the media and the public.

Looks like he did — just not in the way he expected.

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

When buying lingerie can make the news

Clutch your pearls! Just recently, radio business reporter, Michael Kane was strolling through a shopping mall in Toronto and he noticed something that peaked his interest. He decided to tweet his recount, “ I’m just a reporter: saw two modestly dressed women with religious headgear come out of Victoria’s Secret store in the Eaton Centre.”

It’s 2017, so why is it shocking that women were spotting leaving a lingerie store? Women of all categories are entitled to wear underwear if they choose to do so. Much less, why is it an issue that these women were modest and wearing ‘religious headgear’? Muslim women are women too and it should not be tweet-worthy that they were seen exiting a lingerie store.

Mr Kane’s tweet was not warmly welcomed in such a multicultural city like Toronto. For a society that prides itself on diversity and celebrating various cultural backgrounds, scenarios like this are borderline funny and infuriating. People on social media began grabbing on to the phrase “ I’m just a reporter” and responded to Kane with tweets such as “I’m just a reporter: saw a group of White teenagers, in Lululemon outfits playing basketball in a public park.” Scenarios like this does not open a door for positive discussion, instead it brings up issues of ethnicity, social hierarchy, and stereotypes.

Kane made a poor attempt in claiming his tweet was meant to celebrate diversity and promote positive feedback, saying he wanted to bring “news to some, joyful observation to others,” while responding to one Twitter user. The tweet was unnecessary and though he did not say Muslim women, it is clearly implied. Kane continues to gather angry responses and some people even noted this casting of Muslim women as ‘others’ revealing Kane’s cultural insensitivity and intentional or unintentional views as a white male living in a diverse society.

Kane continued to defend himself against the critics, saying he was just sharing his views and he suggested people not judge him. The problem is that people on social media are hypocritical — people cast judgement, but don’t want want to accept judgment cast upon themselves. The tweet, and the conversation that followed, is entirely prejudice and unmindful. Needless to say, Kane did not win his diversity battle and his poor attempt of celebrating another culture seemed creepy, sexist, racist, and why was this a story worth the attention of others on social media?

Kane has since deactivated his twitter and honestly, I’m just a reporter: but it’s time to end cultural, sexist and ethnic insensitivity, evaluate your thoughts, and own up to your actions.

Time to shut down the pregnancy questions

There are certain things, as proper etiquette, you may not ask a woman: her chest size, her weight, and her pregnancy plans. It seems like common sense, but I guess sometimes men need reminding.

Jacinda Ardern is a newly elected 37-year-old politician in New Zealand and she is the youngest ever leader for the New Zealand Labour Party. Of all the questions that Ardern has faced, this one seemed the most absurd. While appearing on radio talk show, The AM Show, Ardern was asked by male host Mark Richardson of her pregnancy plans. Ardern was asked live on air if she plans on becoming a mother during her time in parliament. Richardson based his questioning stating he thinks it’s a legitimate question to ask on behalf of New Zealand because she could potentially become their Prime Minister.

In what world is it okay to ask this type of question to a woman, regardless of the position she may hold? Ardern, however, quickly shut down the radio host, calling the question out of line.

That is unacceptable in 2017,” Ardern said. “It is a woman’s decision about when she chooses to have children and should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have got opportunities.”

Ardern is familiar with Richardson’s stance on women and pregnancy in the workplace, as the host previously said that employers should know this information from their female employees. Richardson’s bold question asking if it is ok for the Prime Minister to take maternity leave left many upset.

Ardern has already publicly spoken out about her plans to to start a family and she doesn’t mind discussing it, however the comparison to women in the workplace is what caused the upset. Ardern insists that women should not have to be worried about maternity leave and consider this a struggle in the workplace.

Ardern even went on to ask Richardson if he would ask a man this question, to which Richardson responded with an unenthusiastic “yes”. Instead of focusing on the accomplishments of this young woman, many seem to be stirring up drama and provoking emotions from the public about her personal decisions. This is not the first time that Ardern was asked this question. During an appearance on a New Zealand TV show called The Project, she was asked by male co host, Jesse Mulligan, if she planned on having children. In this case, Ardern responded politely and said her situation is no different from any other working woman looking to balance priorities and responsibility.

In New Zealand, many activists are debating this form of sexism. The Human Rights Act of 1993 prohibits any employer to discriminate on the grounds or pregnancy or plans to start a family.

Ardern’s case is no different.

Ontario makes abortion pill Mifegymiso free

A week after Alberta announced the government would cover the cost of Mifegymiso, otherwise known as an abortion pill that will terminate a pregnancy up to 49 days from the start of the last menstrual period, the government of Ontario followed suit.

As of Aug. 10, women in Ontario will be able to request this drug from their doctors free of charge. “The commitment to publicly funding Mifegymiso means women across Ontario will have fair and equal access to safe abortion without payment, judgment or exception,” said Indira Naidoo-Harris, Ontario Minister of the Status of Women, in a statement.

Mifegymiso is a combination of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, and is an easy and safe alternative to surgery. One of the biggest barriers facing women’s reproduction rights is the financial accessibility of both birth control and abortion. By covering this drug under a universal health plan, women will now have immense power over their own reproduction system — only a doctor’s prescription is needed to get the drug. There will never be a woman in Ontario who cannot afford to get an abortion. That is an amazing thing.

“The arrival of the new abortion pill Mifegymiso has been greatly anticipated,” said Notisha Massaquoi, Executive Director, Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre. “The Ontario government’s decision to publicly fund this option is increasing our right to choose and will provide all Ontarians with barrier-free access to safe abortions regardless of socio-economic circumstances.”

The Liberal government promised to make Mifegymiso free of charge in their 2017 budget back in April. Ontario is now the third province to cover Mifegymiso following New Brunswick and Alberta.

Next step? Making birth control government funded!

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

Medical abortion drug available at no cost in Alberta

Earlier this year, a potentially life changing prescription drug arrived in Canada called Mifegymiso. What is Mifegymiso? With a name as complicated as it sounds, the drug follows a lot of controversy. It is the medical abortion pill that can terminate a pregnancy for up to 49 days following conception.

Women are slowly gaining access to more reproductive choices and on Monday, it was announced in Alberta that this pill will receive universal coverage, which means it will be free.  Alberta is the second Canadian province to approve universal coverage, following in the steps of New Brunswick. The new policy in New Brunswick also led to a change in abortion access.

Mifegymiso has been the choice drug for medical abortions for over 30 years and it was approved for use by Health Canada in July 2015, following an application time of three years. It became available in January 2017 for a cost of $300 and physicians are required to complete a training program before prescribing. In April 2017, New Brunswick approved coverage and now Alberta has joined them in July 2017.

The idea behind universal coverage is to remove financial barriers and allow women complete freedom over their reproduction choices. It also allows access to rural parts of Canada, where it is more difficult to access reproductive health care services due to the lack of physicians and skilled workers operating clinics.

Sandeep Prasad, the executive director for Action Canada for Sexual health and Rights, remarked that Alberta has shown great leadership in implementing universal coverage of the drug, and hopes it will  motivate other territories. “They have demonstrated that cost coverage is both necessary and possible, she said in a news release after the Government of Alberta announced their decision. “That is why we expect all provincial and territorial governments to commit to cost coverage programs of at least the same caliber as Alberta’s before the health ministers’ meeting in the Fall of 2017.”

Abortion is legal in Canada and in the province of Ontario, but there has been no amendment to covering the cost of Mifegymiso, but many expect the cost to be covered in this province by the end of the year as mentioned in the last budget.

Free Mifegymiso does not mean that the process is simple, as women are still required to do ultrasounds first before taking the pill so that doctors will assess if the candidate can undergo use of the drug. The pill is only available through prescription by your doctor.

Toronto top 10 city for female entrepreneurs

Toronto has been listed as one of the top 10 cities for women entrepreneurs!

The Dell Women Entrepreneur Network Summit released days on the h2017 Women Entrepreneur cities earlier this week, ranking 50 cities around the world based on how they support female entrepreneurs. This is the eight year Dell has hosted such a summit.

Toronto is listed as number nine on the top 10 cities list, with Vancouver making it on the list for the first time at number 26 in the rankings.

Dell teamed up with IHS Markit, an analytics firm that helped the company gather data on various cities, to see which cities qualified to be listed. One key factor of determination was based on a city’s ability to attract as well as support women entrepreneurs. Their research does not include data from previous years — each study is conducted fresh each time and the company also changes and adds factors.

Karen Quinto, the executive VP and chief customer officer at Dell, remarked the number of women entrepreneurs is growing globally at a rate of more than 10 per cent each year. “Women are likely or more likely than men to start businesses in many markets,” he said. “However, financial, cultural, and political barriers can limit the success of these businesses.”

Factors of determination were based on city characteristics such as capital, technology, talent, culture, and markets. Other factors include local policy, national laws, and customs. There were categories that were broken down even more, for instance culture was determined based on areas things like role models, mentors , networks and attitudes towards women entrepreneurs. In this instance, Toronto ranked third and Vancouver ranked 17th.

Vancouver has made the list thanks to their paid maternity leave for women which is a plus to their businesses. It is also easy to start a business there as the city ranks 26th in terms of access to capital.

Dell continues to be committed to empowering women in business especially in the sue of technology. The company believes that this venture can lead to an increase in global economic growth and development. Dell believes that women especially understand the connection that is necessary with your customers in business.

Twenty-five cities was added to the list for 2017. Here are the top 10 in the list:

1. New York

2. San Francisco

3. London

4. Boston

5. Stockholm

6. Los Angeles

7. Washington, D.C.

8. Singapore

9. Toronto

10. Seattle

For the full list of countries, check out this link to get the full executive summary index.

Are you watching the 2017 North American Indigenous Games?

The opening ceremony for the Toronto 2017 North American Indigenous Games took place on July 16 and marked another milestone for the celebration of Indigenous culture and heritage in North America.  The opening parade was held at the Aviva Centre at York University in Toronto and featured Indigenous athletes from the various regions of Turtle Island.

Turtle Island is a reference to North America, based on an Indigenous story of creation. The North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) is the largest gathering of Indigenous people in North America for the purpose of sports and cultural activities.

There are 14 core sports that will be featured during the games and they include: Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Baseball, Canoe, Golf , Lacrosse, Rifle Shooting, Soccer, Softball, Swimming, Wrestling, and Volleyball. There will be 13 participating teams from all  the provinces of Canada as well as 13 teams from the United States. The games offer an opportunity for Indigenous youth to showcase their athletic abilities in a series of competitions.

Youth aged 13-19 are eligible to take part in the games. There are expected to be over 5000 participants and over 2000 volunteers for the games. The activities will take place in Toronto and various locations within the GTA, and Six Nations of the Grand River. The games were founded in the early 1970s, but this is the first time in over 25 years that the games will be held in the Eastern Region of Canada.

Lacrosse is one of the 14 sports categories and holds special significance to Indigenous peoples. The game of lacrosse is a traditional game in Indigenous culture. It is often referred to as “The Medicine Game”  and it was believed to be a game gifted to the Indigenous peoples by the creator to encourage fun and active movements and the healing of people. The game is often played by the men in Indigenous culture and was used to train warriors and settle tribal disputes. However, the 2017 NAIG will proudly feature the women’s debut of box lacrosse with teams from six provinces in Canada.

The games will also host various cultural events to celebrate Indigenous heritage at York and McMaster University. The cultural festival is a week long celebration ending this weekend and the festival features Indigenous cuisine, craft, and nightly entertainment. All cultural events are free and open to the public. The festival is also a chance to showcase the award winning talents of Indigenous performers.

The games support Indigenous unity and is a chance to strengthen Indigenous bonds throughout the region. The games run from July 16-23 and will be broadcast via live stream on cbc.ca/sports and the events are free to attend and open to the public. For more information visit NAIG2017.

Australian politician breastfeeds newborn in Senate – and resigns

Back in May, Australian politician Larissa Waters breastfeed her newborn baby on the floor of the Senate — while she presented a motion to her colleagues!

Technically, politicians in Australia have been allowed to breastfeed in the Senate since 2003; however, no one has taken advantage of this rule, most likely due to the stigma associated with showing your breast in public. Just last year, at Waters’ urging, Parliament changed their rules to allow breastfeeding in their chamber. Parliament also altered laws that allowed mothers or fathers to enter the Senate to help take care of their children while their partners attended to their public duties.

Of course, after video of Waters presenting her motion while breastfeeding went viral (for good reason), there was plenty of criticism. Many people thought it wasn’t polite or respectful for Waters to be feeding her child while in Parliament. Someone actually compared the act to urinating in the Chambers!

Women’s Post won’t go into the different ridiculous and misogynist reasons these critics gave to try and dissuade Waters from breastfeeding while at work. Instead, our staff would like to commend this courageous politician for proving that women shouldn’t be discriminated against for simply having motherly responsibilities.

Waters, unfortunately, was forced to resign from her position earlier this week amid a discovery that she was actually a dual national. Apparently, Waters was born in Winnipeg to Australian parents and despite the fact that she has never lived in this country or applied for Canadian citizenship, she is still considered Canadian. Australia’s constitution says that a “citizen of a foreign power” cannot be voted a representative at Parliament, so she was forced to step back from her position.

Australia should lament. They are losing a great politician and champion of women’s rights.

While this is an absolute shame, I’m sure many Canadians are proud they can call this woman a sister. She is a role model for women who want to get into politics, but may share a fear surrounding the time commitment and the challenges of balancing motherhood and public service. It’s the little things like this that may persuade women to enter into politics.

Either way, let’s hope Waters’ actions encourage other female politicians to break the stigma and breastfeed on the floor of Parliament.


What do you think of Waters’ breastfeeding in the Senate chambers? Let us know in the comments below!

Breastfeeding in public: the new trend ?

Recently, controversial YouTube personality Spiritual Tasha Mama, a mum of two from San Diego, has come under fire and even investigation for speaking out on her breastfeeding habits for her two children, ages three and three months. Tasha Maile admitted she once had sex while breastfeeding one of her children, something many called disturbing and distasteful. While this act is questionable, many of her online viewers are even more disturbed by her willingness to display images of her  breastfeeding her children in public and even posting live feeds of the act while working out. While some support her multitasking efforts, many have criticized her choice to display these images publicly.

This isn’t the only instance of controversial breastfeeding in public. It seems breastfeeding itself becomes a topic of conversation in the news every few months, with many people offering their opinion for and against women doing it in public.

Forgetting the controversy for one moment, think of the health benefits breastfeeding has for mother and child  During the first six months of a child’s life, breastfeeding is a convenient and portable way to feed your baby, A mother’s milk is clean, often the right temperature, and packed with custom produced vitamins, minerals, fats and proteins amongst other beneficial ingredients.

The Public Health Agency of Canada often supports breastfeeding infants, as breast milk also contains antibodies to prevent diseases in newborns and it also has been shown to reduce allergies in a child’s development. Essentially, many claim that breastfed babies are even smarter! Though I beg to differ, as I am a formula baby.

Breast milk is also a cheaper option to the expenses of formula. There are many health benefits for the mom as well, as research indicates breastfeeding can lower the risk of certain cancers including breast and ovarian.  The body also releases a healthy emotionally balancing hormone, which is beneficial to the mother after birth.

Over the years, there have been numerous stories that have attracted the media’s attention. One instance includes a Starbucks in Ottawa, where a young woman complained to a male barista about a mother in the café that was breastfeeding her child without a “modesty shield.” This story, however, had a happy ending when the barista provided the mother with a free coffee for having to deal with unpleasant complains and stares. Back in 2014, the spokesperson for Starbucks, Laurel Harper stated that Starbucks does not have an official policy on customer experience or breastfeeding.

There was even a controversial health campaign in Mexico City that featured topless celebrities who were encouraging breastfeeding for new mothers. This was met with backlash from critics who argued the campaign sexualized women and placed shame on mothers who could not breastfeed for medical reasons.  There always seems to be someone that is not too pleased with the display of a woman’s bare breast, or feeding her child uncovered in public, and while people have their opinions, views, and personal preferences when it comes to where they feed their children, women should not be shamed for providing essential nutrients for their babies.

This week, Apple announced a new set of emoji’s for World Emoji Day and notable emojis include a breastfeeding emoji! Now you can add that to your next social media post proud moms. While the debate over breastfeeding may be endless, August 1-7 2017 is marked as world breastfeeding week and the movement is celebrating it’s 25th year in encouraging breastfeeding on a global scale in an aim to attract political support, media attention and participation.

For more information on breastfeeding, visit Eat Right Ontario or consult publichealth.gc.ca.