Twenty three women from the community joined MP Mike Bossio at the Lennox and Addington County Museum in Napanee on the eve of International Women’s Day to offer their insights on how to empower more women to take leadership roles.
The meeting was led by Suzanne Brant, the president of the First Nations Technical Institute in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.
The wide-ranging discussion included a strong focus on the need for more affordable child care as a foundation for gender equality in the workplace. Participants also pointed out that women often do shift work, and it is particularly difficult to find child care during evening and night shifts.
“Affordable child care is a concern that I hear a lot about, particularly in rural communities like ours,” said Bossio. “In addition to the Canada Child Benefit from 2016, we put $7.5 billion over 11 years in the 2017 budget to work with the provinces on opening up 40,000 more early education and affordable child care spaces, but there is more that needs to be done. You don’t have to look far to find families who feel the financial stress of paying for child care, or who are forced to curtail their career because they just can’t afford it. That’s not fair.”
There were also concerns that women of child-bearing years are often passed over in career advancement, or that older women are more often seen as “too old” for a job than their similarly aged male counterparts.
Pay equity was another issue of concern at the roundtable. On average, women earn just 69 cents for every dollar earned by men on an annual basis, even though about three-quarters of young women have a post-secondary certificate or degree. Even women who graduate from high-demand fields like science, technology, engineering and math earn, on average, $9,000 a year less than their male peers. Potential solutions offered by the participants included having financial consequences for organizations that can’t prove pay equity practices are in effect in their work place; or, a tax credit for women that balances their pay relative to men.
“Anyone who looks at pay equity stats can see that it’s not fair,” said Bossio. “The federal government is taking steps to fix this. We are introducing proactive pay equity legislation for workers. This legislation would ensure that on average, women and men in federally regulated industries receive the same pay for work of equal value. There is more that needs to be done, but the broader steps we are taking by empowering female entrepreneurs and supporting equal parenting will also play a role.”
Participants agreed that it is important for the whole community to take a role women’s mentorship, and that women who don’t want to take on leadership roles need to be cheerleaders for those who do. This is a way to ensure that more women get into leadership positions.
The participants talked about the possibility of starting an Equal Voice chapter in the area, playing a role in municipal elections, and holding another larger roundtable or workshop this year.
With International Women’s Day being celebrated on March 8th, the participants ended the meeting by encouraging themselves and their neighbours to celebrate the accomplishments of women in the community. They want to ensure that the next generation, who they say better understands equality as a given, are nurtured today by parents, teachers, and role-models to foster equality for future generations.