The Importance of International Women's Day

Each year we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8. However, it isn’t just the one day that recognizes women, the entire month is dedicated to the history of women’s rights.

Because there is a long history, and the fight isn’t over.

From the suffragettes to the #MeToo movement, women have been fighting for equality and basic human rights for decades. That is why this year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #MyFeminism, to celebrate feminists who 'inspire others through their determination to make a difference.'

Whenever the topic of feminism is discussed, the same comments will come up from those who don’t understand the plight women faced and are still facing regarding pay equity, poverty and violence across the globe and right here in Canada.

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Pay inequality – it doesn’t exist because the women I work with get paid the same as me.

The #MeToo movement – it’s just a witch hunt that is ruining lives.

Gender based violence – women need to stop putting themselves in dangerous situations.

Lack of representation in leadership roles – they choose to take time out to have children.

The reality is that countless studies and statistics support the fact that women are still not treated equally in Canada, and large human rights organizations are taking notice.

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In the United Nations Gender Equality Index Canada ranks a dismal 25th. The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) issued recommendations regarding Canada's compliance with the UN treaty on women's rights that need to be implemented by 2020.

Unions have been involved in the fight for equality for women for decades across North America. Female union members have been organizing rallies and standing up for the rights of all workers from garment factory workers of the late 1800’s to the Fight for 15 movement of today.

So this March, no matter what gender, age or race you are, take a moment to reflect on what #MyFeminism means to you.


The Gender Wage Gap Is Real

This past year has been one of women making their voices heard. The #MeToo movement has brought attention to sexual harassment and assault, but it has also put a spotlight on the wage gap.

The wage gap is very real for women across Canada and it has been for a long time. The latest numbers from Statistics Canada clearly show that full-time working women earn 26 per cent less than full-time working men.

This is even worse for women of colour and Indigenous women. Racialized women earn 62 cents for every man’s dollar and Indigenous women earn 46 cents.

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This gap can be difficult for some people to get their heads around. Many claim it is a myth, stating that the women they work with make the same as them for the same job or that they don't know any women who have had to deal with issues of pay inequity.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the pay gap that persist despite the force of the #MeToo movement and the statistics that are found year after year on the gap. Here are just a few of them.

Women Choose Lower Paying Jobs

Fields where women outnumber men such as retail, early childhood educators or cashiers, tend to be much lower paying jobs. It has been called ‘Occupational Segregation’, referring to the ‘striking tendency of many industries to be very heavily dominated by one gender or the other.’ It also shows how little value ‘women’s work’ has in society with occupations related to caregiving or teaching paying much less.

Women Choose to Have Babies and Take Time Off

It is true that women take time off to have children and often have the responsibility of caring for children at home, but research has shown that the pay gap exists right from the beginning of women’s careers. The lack of affordable child care in Canada also has a huge impact on the pay gap, causing mothers to stay out of the workforce longer.

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There Has Been Huge Progress

Employers can pay women less, choose not to hire them or not promote them because it is the norm. A study found that women earned more than half of the university degrees and 40 per cent of the MBAs handed out in North America, but only three per cent of Fortune 500 companies are run by female CEOs. Despite many more women attending post secondary and entering fields that are usually dominated by men, there are still very few women in leadership roles. And all of this is changing at a snail’s pace, with Oxfam estimating that it will be 135 years until women and men are paid equally.

 


Women's March will take place again in 2018

Last year on Jan 21, a historic moment took place around the world. An estimated 5 million people worldwide took part in the 2017 Women’s March, an event about fighting for women’s rights.

Although the organizers say that it was not about President Donald Trump specifically, it did take place a day after Trump’s inauguration – a man who was caught talking openly about sexual assault and has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault.

But it wasn’t just in America where people took to the streets in support of women’s rights – Canadians came out in full force. Over 50,000 took to the streets in Toronto, 15,000 in Vancouver, 4,000 in Edmonton and 4,000 in Calgary.

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This year, organizers have announced that the march will happen again.

On Jan 20, cities and communities across the country will once again see people take to the street in support of women’s rights, and this past year has proved there is still lots of work to do.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada has the 8th highest gender wage gap of 34 industrialized countries and the world economic foundation found that Canada ranks in 30th place, making it 117 years before we would reach gender parity. Oxfam Canada found that working full-time aboriginal women made 26 per cent less than non-aboriginal men and women of colour made 32 per cent less than non-racialized men.

Sexual harassment and assault is an issue around the world including Canadian workplaces. A recent survey has found that more than half of women in Canada have experienced sexual harassment at work.

Domestic violence is also a serious issue for women in Canada. A 2015 study by the Conference Board of Canada found that 71 per cent of employers and 55 per cent of government employers reported a situation where they had to protect an employee who was a victim of domestic violence.

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It is clear we still need to raise our voices in support of women's rights around the world.

Unions are passionate about the fight for women’s rights in and ouside of the workplace. The labour movement was proud to take part in the inaugural 2017 march, and will once again be proud to take part in this march.

For more information visit womensmarchcanada.com.


Gender Inequality in the Tech World

It’s nothing new to see Google grabbing headlines. It would actually be weird to not hear about the latest tech update from the mega company.

But this week the tech giant is making headlines for a not so great reason – anti-diversity.

A senior software engineer sent out a memo titled ‘Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.’ In it he argued that ‘that the gender gaps at Google are the result of biological differences between men and women, and that the company shouldn’t offer programs that help under-represented groups.’ He also argued that politically conservative employees are discriminated against and there is little protection for that group.

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This isn’t the first incident of anti-diversity at Google. Earlier this year the US Department of Labor said that the company had been systematically underpaying female employees.

It is a problem that spreads across a lot tech companies and across borders.

According to an article by CBC news women make up less than a third of the workforce at many tech companies. Tech companies say this is a ‘pipeline problem’ and that there aren’t enough women and minorities with the right qualifications.

One way to fight discrimination in the workplace is unionizing, something more tech company employees are pushing for. It has been argued in the past that tech companies are often seen as great places to work without a union, but in the past year more and more stories of discrimination have come to the surface.

Last year shuttle drivers and warehouse workers voted to unionize with Teamsters. Amazon employees in Seattle were laid off just as their organizing was starting to gain momentum.

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Unions have played a major role for  women’s rights in the workplace, including the Teamsters with contracts that have lead the way when it comes to gender equality. According to the Canadian Labour Congress, union members earn on average $5.28 per hour more than workers without a union and women earn $7.10 per hour more on average with a union.

A collective agreement can ensure that all workers are treated equally and have rights to protect them in the workplace, something it seems more tech companies need.

 


Closing the Gender Gap Could Add $150 Billion to the Economy

Finding a way to close the gender gap is not only good for women in Canada, but also the economy.

A new report from the McKinsey Global Institute found that progress in getting more women into managerial positions, entrepreneurship and the workplace in general could add $150 billion more to the Canadian economy by 2026.

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They said that better public and private policies could help grow the annual GDP by 0.6 per cent. The report said the the effect would be the same as adding a whole new financial sector to the economy.

Unfortunately, there are some trends that are troubling.

One major issue is the lack of women in leadership or managerial roles. A study from 2015 found that nearly three quarters of working Canadian women are in roles below the management level. They make up nearly half of all entry level positions, despite the fact they outnumber men at post-secondary.

Another is that women’s labour force participation rate is decreasing and has been since the 1990’s. This is expected to continue unless something is done.

There is also the gender pay gap in Canada that the United Nations described as ‘concerning.’ Women earn $0.82 for every dollar earned by a man.

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Under no circumstances are there any Teamsters agreements where men and woman receive a different pay rate for the same job. Men and women deserve equal pay and it is something the union strongly believes in.

In fact, studies have shown that being a member of a union can help narrow the gap for women. Union members earn on average $5.28 per hour more than workers without a union and women earn $7.10 per hour more on average with a union, getting paid more fairly.

Any way you look at the workplace and women’s roles, it is clear that we need to make changes for the good of all Canadians.


Important to Recognize International Women's Day

Every year on March 8 we celebrate International Women’s Day – a day that recognizes the achievements of women around the world.

But it also acts as a day to bring attention to the issues women still face even in our modern society.

It is a day that has been highlighting women’s struggles for over a century starting in 1908 when 15,000 women took to the streets of New York City to march for voting rights, shorter hours, and fair pay. This eventually spread internationally in 1910.

This year’s theme is #BeBoldForChange, which is described as a ‘call on the masses’ to form a more ‘gender inclusive world.’

This year International Women’s Day will also coincide with the official ‘Day without a Woman’, put on by the same women who organized the Women’s March. They ask that women take a day off from paid and unpaid labour and wear red in solidarity.

The organizers said that the day is to recognize ‘the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system--while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity.’

Women still face uphill battles, especially when it comes to the workplace. It is estimated that it will take 170 years to reach gender equity – that’s a long time.

Canada has a long way to go for gender equity. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Canada has the 8th highest gender wage gap of 34 industrialized countries.

Unions have played a major role when it comes women’s rights in the workplace, including the Teamsters who have contracts that have lead the way when it comes to gender equality. This is guaranteed in a collective agreement that can ensure that women will be paid equally for equal work.

Teamsters also has an annual women’s conference with thousands of women from around North America that come together to hear speakers, attend workshops and participate in union building activities.

A report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research  showed that women in unions receive ‘better pay, and greater access to employer-provided health insurance, paid sick leave and retirement, among other gains.’

According to the Canadian labour Congress, union members earn on average $5.28 per hour more than workers without a union and women earn $7.10 per hour more on average with a union.

No matter your gender, job or whether you are a union member or not, it is important to recognized International Women’s Day.


Millennial Women Face Gender Pay Gap

Even in 2016, gender inequality is still an issue found in workplaces across the world, including Canada.

The spotlight has been on the issue with a review last year of Canada by the United Nations who found that gender inequality in the workplace is a huge concern, especially when it comes to pay.

According to Catalyst Canada Canadian women earn $0.82 to every $1 earned by men, a gap of 18 per cent. They found that the ‘global pay gap was about $4,000 on average between men and women, and the Canadian pay gap was just over $8,000.’

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And this isn’t just a problem for older generations. Millennials too are entering workplaces where the gender pay gap still exists, especially if it is non-unionized.

Studies have shown that being a member of a union can help narrow the gender wage gap for women. Union members earn on average $5.28 per hour more than workers without a union and women earn $7.10 per hour more on average with a union.

Under no circumstances are there any Teamsters agreements where men and woman receive a different pay rate for the same job. Men and women deserve equal pay and it is something the union strongly believes in.

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As pointed out by an article in The Guardian, this wage gap is something that younger women need to address the first day of their first job, when they are introduced to the wage gap.

The optimism of millennials isn’t going to be enough to solve the problem – they need to take action.

Unions have been fighting for worker’s rights for decades, and joining one offers an opportunity to continue to fight to close the gender pay and aspiration gap.


Women Still Face Barriers Moving Into Leadership Roles In The Workplace

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the mandate that his cabinet would have gender equality – 15 men and 15 women – many Canadians were excited about the very public example of women in leadership roles.

Trudeau said it was important for women to be given an equal voice on Parliament Hill, with more agendas moving forward on women’s issues.

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Women will be able to give their perspective, ‘because it’s 2015.’

However, in 2015 there are still very little women in leadership roles in Canadian workplaces.

Randstad Canada’s fourth annual Women Shaping Business study found that ‘nearly three-quarters of working Canadian women are in roles below the management level.’

And what was cited as the number one barrier to leadership? An employer’s fear of absence due to family obligations.

Faith Tull, senior vice president, human resources at Randstad Canada said that in order to promote gender diversity in more senior roles ‘Canadian employers need to enhance their offerings to alleviate workplace stress related to family obligations.’

"Making leadership opportunities accessible and attractive for women starts with nurturing a work culture of flexibility, openness and empowerment," she said.

Not being backed by a union can also make things more difficult. With union representation also comes the security in knowing you will not be denied a promotion into a leadership role, paid an unfair wage or terminated because of your gender or family obligations.

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Studies have shown that being a member of a union can help narrow the gender wage gap for women. Union members earn on average $5.28 per hour more than workers without a union and women earn $7.10 per hour more on average with a union.

All of these are important factors, as the study found more than three-quarters of working Canadian women ‘believe there is a divide compared to men in the workplace when it comes to salaries, influence in making important decisions, promotions, and getting the best jobs, tasks or projects.’

Trudeau set a great example, but we still need to take a closer look at the barriers women face moving into leadership roles in Canada.