Many steps left to take towards gender equality

Women represent over half of the Canadian population but hold only 26 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons.

This is wrong. In the 150-year history of our country, only nine women from Nova Scotia have been elected as a Member of Parliament. In fact, my colleague, Bernadette Jordan, recently became the first female cabinet minister from Nova Scotia since Confederation.

Women are underrepresented in many influential fields, like politics, because of persistent social and economic barriers to success. We cannot expect to achieve equality by continuing to let discrimination permeate in our society. We must work together to remove these barriers.

The burden of achieving equality is not for women to bear alone. Every one of us has a role to play in eliminating gender discrimination and International Women’s Day provides us with an opportunity to reflect on what we can do to help achieve gender equity in our communities and across our country.

In the workplace, women are still paid less than men for performing work of equal value. Women are too often prejudiced for taking time off after childbirth, they are routinely denied opportunities to take part in networking opportunities as a result of the unconscious bias of their employers, and workplace culture across different industries often leads to women exiting their profession before they reach the pinnacle of their careers.

Women entrepreneurs have a harder time accessing capital to start new businesses, despite showing rates of success that are equal to or higher than similar businesses started by men. Women are also often under-represented in positions of influence, such as corporate boards.

When we make space for women take part in conversations around decision-making tables, they bring perspectives shaped by their own lived experience. Adding a diverse range of women’s voices and opinions leads to a more informed group of decision makers and ultimately, better policies. It comes as no surprise that companies with a board of directors that is comprised of at least 30 per cent women have been shown to make more money than those with fewer women on the board.

We all have a role to play in helping to achieve gender equality. Men and boys need to recognize that gender inequality means that some of the greatest business solutions or scientific discoveries that exist within the minds of women today may never reach broader society. We must make space for women to make these contributions, remove the systemic barriers that hinder their success, and at the very least, stop making decisions that impact women without their input.

There are small things we can do, like not interrupting women in conversations and not taking credit for ideas they bring to the table. There are also big things we can do, like promoting talented candidates into positions of influence regardless of their gender or advocating to end systemic gender-based violence in your community.

This International Women’s Day, I ask that you take some time to reflect on the inequality that exists within our own community and think about something you can do to improve it. Our government has implemented a number of initiatives to help tackle gender inequality, but social change is driven by real people living in our communities. It is incumbent on all of us to contribute to the fight for gender equality, and we will all benefit when it is achieved.

Sean Fraser,

MP Central Nova

New Glasgow