The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Index predicts that we won’t see global gender parity until 2133. This means that global equality is still an estimated 117 years away, and none of us will see it in our lifetimes if current trends continue.
While Canadians have hit several milestones when it comes to women’s rights (ranging from equal pay to anti-workplace sexual harassment legislation), we shouldn’t have any illusions that living in a “developed” country means we’ve achieved gender equality. Here are some key ways Canadians need to work to come closer to closing the gender gap.
Closing the income gap
The Status of Women Canada lists “access to education” as its No. 1 priority when it comes to empowering Canadian women and girls. But here’s the thing: Women in Canada already have higher levels of education than men do. According to Statistics Canada, women between the ages of 25 and 64 account for 54 per cent of Canadian university degrees. And the trend is increasing, as women hold 60 per cent of degrees among young adults. Yet women still earn less than men, taking home 73.5 cents for every dollar men earn.
It looks like things are getting worse, not better, however. The gender pay gap wasn’t as big in 2009, when women earned 74.4 per cent of every male-earned dollar, according to an Oxfam Canada study. Single mothers are hit particularly hard by this gendered wage gap, according to the new study: A whopping 37 per cent of single mothers live in poverty in Canada, while only 22 per cent of single fathers face similar economic challenges.
How can we level the playing field? Given that women are 19 times more likely than men to say “caring for children” is the reason they work part time, Oxfam Canada recommends improved social services such as expanded childcare to “reduce the care burden on women.” It’s also important that we give greater value to industries that predominantly employ women, as Oxfam found that wages were higher in traditionally male-dominated industries, such as truck driving, than in female-dominated industries like early childhood education.
Ending violence against women
While 633,000 women self-reported sexual and physical assaults in 2014, only 21,000 women reported their assaults to police, according to Statistics Canada. It’s hard to get solid numbers on violence against women because assaults often go unreported, but it’s clearly a pervasive problem Canadians need to address in 2016.
The situation is particularly bleak for Aboriginal women and girls: RCMP estimate that there are 1,200 documented cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls between 1980 and 2012. But there may actually be a lot more women and girls who are unaccounted for — 3,000 more, according to research from the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Inuit women are particularly vulnerable to sexual and physical violence as well. Residents of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon are three times as likely as those living in the rest of Canada to experience violent crimes including sexual assaults, robberies and physical assaults, according to Canada’s General Social Survey.
So what can Canada do? Trudeau’s inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls is a step in the right direction. It’s also crucial that we improve sexual assault education for Canadians of all ages and genders to prevent violence against women and educate survivors about their rights while expanding social services for survivors.