International Women’s Day: Time to celebrate and reflect

In Canada, we like to think that women and men get the same deal in our labour market, as if we have already achieved 100 percent equality.

Actually, our society is still hammering out the details year after year. This year, statistics show that we have made some gains and therefore have some reasons to celebrate. The numbers also demonstrate we still have to keep working on making our society fair and equitable to women.

Here is a quick look at some interesting statistics showing improvements and conditions where more progress is needed.

  • We claimed a little more space on the employment front. The Status of Women Canada says in 2013, women made up 47.3 percent in the labour market. That’s up from 45.7 in 1999. In 1976, we represented only 37.1 percent. (Think of this as a pie in which we increasingly get a little closer to half.) Paid work can significantly add to the quality of women’s lives and reduce poverty.
  • Of the total number of women between the ages of 15 and 74, 68 percent were working, compared to 76 percent of men in the same age group (2013 figures).
  • When we compare all Canadian women to only newcomer women, the 2008 participation rate in the labour market was 62.8 percent and 55.7 percent respectively. Sadly, this reflects the many barriers to employment for women who have migrated from other countries.
  • While women have certainly become more active in the labour market, many of us work in part-time jobs. Seventy percent of part-time positions are held by women. While part-time work is sometimes a preference, it also tends to pay less and offer less job security.
  • An increasing number of working women are self-employed: as of 2009, about one in ten had generated her own work. Considering all people self-employed in 2009, 35.5 percent were women, a number that has steadily grown over the past 20 years. Like part-time work, self-employment tends to offer work flexibility to women who are mothers, but normally this means work without benefits and not much job security.
  • An average Canadian woman earned .87 for every dollar an average Canadian male earned. However, when we compare a full-time working woman’s total year earnings with that of a full-time working man’s total year earnings, women brought in just over 70 percent of what men earned. For several years, this figure has remained unchanged.

If you’d like to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, the Vancouver Public Library is offering Women Leading the Way. And finally, for a really great infographic (I love these) on women’s progress throughout the past century in the US.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Gwen PawlikowskiAbout the Author:
Gwen Pawlikowski is a freelance writer and entrepreneur who has also worked as an ISSofBC employment counsellor with newcomers. She lives in New Westminster and loves the diversity of the Lower Mainland. Please click here for information on ISSofBC’s career services.


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