International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world tomorrow, as a time not only for reflecting on woman’s long and difficult struggle to gain the same rights and freedoms enjoyed by men, but also to look ahead to what still needs to change so women can enjoy true equality and respect.
In Canada, it’s hard to believe that it was less than a hundred years ago, in 1918, that white women were granted the right to vote and to stand for office and only in 1928 did they become ‘persons’ under the law. It took until the 1950s to make it illegal for employers to pay women lower wages than males received for the same work. And it wasn’t until 1960 that aboriginal men and women were allowed to vote without having to give up their Status and Treaty rights.
Positive as these and other changes have been, a recent study Economic Opportunity in the Lower Columbia, clearly shows that many local women still have quite a way to go to achieve the same level of economic security currently experienced by males. The study was commissioned for Women Creating Change, a three-year project funded by Status of Women Canada and implemented by the Skills Centre and the Trail FAIR Society. The project is supported by a number of community partners and by a 16 person advisory committee whose members come from diverse experiences and backgrounds in the region.
As a fun way to celebrate International Women’s Day and to introduce the results of the just released study, Women Creating Change recently sponsored a contest to highlight some of the findings. The correct answers are published in the Trail Times today, and are also posted on the Skills Centre (www.communityskillscentre.com) and Trail FAIR (www.trailfair.ca) websites. Next week, the websites will post the name drawn to win a gift card from Ferraro Foods.
As an example of gender differences, the study found that 52% of women and only 28 per cent of men in the Lower Columbia region earned less than $24,000 per year. On the other hand, 43 per cent of men and just 16 per cent of women reported annual earnings above $50,000.
More women than men are employed in lower paying sectors such as clerical, sales, health and social services, while more men than women are employed in higher paying sectors such as construction and manufacturing.
The study also found that women, especially those living on low incomes, experience many barriers to gaining economic security, including a lack of affordable and accessible child care (particularly for children under three years of age), lack of public transportation to key work sites, difficulty in accessing employment skills training opportunities and a lack of flexible, ‘family friendly’ policies on the part of some employers in the region.
Over the next two years, Women Creating Change, will use the study’s findings and recommendations as a foundation for engaging the wider community and encouraging positive changes to increase women’s access to a wider variety of economic opportunities in what would then become thriving, supportive, women and family friendly communities in the Lower Columbia region.