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Sunday, 9 March 2014

Celebrating gender equity, while reflecting on the gap that still is to be closed.

March 8th is International Woman’s Day  - it was a chance to reflect on progress and shortcomings of efforts to achieve gender equity. 

While major strides are obvious over time periods of decades to centuries, the gaps between genders remain unacceptable.  On the surface from a health perspective, women enjoy a five year advantage over males, a gap that was greatest at 7.5 years around 1980 and has slowly been decreasing while both genders have continued to enjoy steadily increasing life expectancy.

The UN Development Program produces occasional reports on human development, the site is a wealth of data and international analytic information.  The  most recent version in 2013  continues just a three year tradition of reporting on gender inequality (page 158).  Northern European and Scandinavian countries  lead the index with the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland holding the top three rankings.  Canada places 18th, the US 42nd  Where Canada performs well is equal and high rates of secondary education in both genders.  Performance is average on labour force participation with 71% of males and 62% of females over 15 in the labour force, average on proportion of national government seats held by females (28%), poorly on teen fertility and maternal mortality. In all categories Canada preforms better than the US. 

A key policy direction in Canada has been towards pay equity, with several provinces implementing formal direction such as the Ontario Pay Equity Act of 1987.  However, progress has been slow in decreasing the gap.  The Conference Board of Canada has an excellent site monitoring Canada’s progress and international ranking on gender income gap, reported in 2010 as having slowly dropped to 19%  but only ranked 11th of 17 peer countries and on par with the US performance. 

A closing note on equity in executive positions which has gained prominence of an indicator.  The Human Resource Council of Canada reports on diversity and makes specific note of the differences between non-profit and for profit sectors, with women having a majority of managerial roles and overall jobs in the non-profit section although disproportionately less managerial positions by 6%.  While women constitute just less than half of the workforce in the for – profit sector, they hold only just above one third of the managerial roles.    HR Council diversity

A far cry from the pre-60’s eras from which women’s liberation movements and feminism arose, and a far cry from countries where women remain repressed and precluded from social inclusion.  Nonetheless the goal of equality is one that deserves celebration and a reminder that we have a long way to go

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