International Women’s Day – It’s Everyone’s Business

Gender parity has a fundamental bearing on a society’s ability to thrive and prosper. Ensuring that half of the world’s talent has the opportunity to participate in the workforce has a huge impact on the growth and competitiveness of economies around the world.

International Women’s Day – it’s everyone’s business

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March 8, 2020, marks International Women’s Day (IWD), an annual day to recognize women's achievements and acknowledge the challenges they continue to face in the pursuit of gender equality.

While it’s important to appreciate the progress we’ve made, we should not be complacent and think there’s no work left to do. Even in an area as mundane as household chores, the gender divide persists. New York Times correspondent Claire Cain Miller says women still spend about an hour more a day on domestic work even though men have doubled the time they dedicate to housework since 1965.

Striving for equal rights for women isn’t just good for women; it benefits everyone. “There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women,” said former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Gender parity has a fundamental bearing on a society’s ability to thrive and prosper. Ensuring that half of the world’s talent has the opportunity to participate in the workforce has a huge impact on the growth and competitiveness of economies around the world.

The theme for this year’s IWD is “Each for Equal,” signifying that an equal world is an enabled world. While society has made great strides towards gender parity, true equality on social, economic and political fronts remains elusive.

Sobering statistics

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The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 highlights a discouraging fact: none of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes, and it’s likely our children won’t either. The report predicts that it will be almost 100 years before that goal is realized.

Around the world, women’s participation in the labour market is stalling, and financial disparities are slightly larger. On average, only 55 per cent of adult women are in the labour market, versus 78 per cent of men, while more than 40 per cent of the wage gap and over 50 per cent of the income gap has yet to be bridged.  

Equality at work

IWD is a call to action for accelerating gender equality throughout workplaces globally. While women make up 48 per cent of the labour force in Canada, they hold just 24 per cent of seats on the boards of listed companies and fall short of men in terms of economic opportunity.

A recent Statistics Canada survey shows that, on average, women earn 87 cents for every dollar men make. Women with the same experience, socio-economic and demographic background earn approximately $7,200 less each year than their male counterparts, according to a report by the Ontario Gender Wage Gap Strategy Steering Committee. It's also the case that many of the career areas where people earn the highest rates of pay are male-dominated. I have also observed that men are typically more comfortable negotiating a higher rate of pay or asking for a raise.

I’ve thought a lot about this disparity and the reasons behind it. Many women choose to put their careers on hold while they raise children, and even though that ultimately benefits the family and society, it can set them behind professionally. I don’t have the solution, but it’s important we continue to focus on how we can level the playing field for women so they can have fulfilling personal and professional lives.

Violence against women

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have drawn the issues of sexual harassment and abuse from the shadows and provided a positive catalyst for change, but serious challenges remain.

More than six in 10 women experience gender discrimination, according to findings from a Plan Canada study last year. Statistics Canada reports that between 2003 and 2012, there were 960 domestic homicides – in which the victim was a current or former spouse, common-law partner or dating partner of the perpetrator. Of those, 747 of the victims were women.

Gender equality makes us happier

Research shows that people in countries with greater gender equality are more satisfied with their lives than residents of societies with less gender equality, says Andre P. Audette, an assistant professor of political science at Monmouth College Illinois, who studies the impact of politics on life satisfaction.

Ensuring women and girls have equal opportunity isn’t an “us versus them” proposition. It’s about empowering half of the population for the benefit of all.

In the words of Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, “We cannot all succeed if half of us are held back.”

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