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Does Gender Equality Exist?

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Category: History Other

Autor: anton 04 December 2010

Words: 2101 | Pages: 9

During the 1980s many people were ignorant to the fact that gender inequality still existed in an advanced nation such as Canada. Due to the technological advancements, and the betterment of various social services (i.e. healthcare, welfare, child care, etc.); the natural assumption was that women discrimination too had decreased and didn't pose a serious enough threat in the society. However, the anti-feminist rage at L'Г©cole Polytechnique on December 6th, 1989 shattered this perception and opened the eyes of the Canadian public to the reality В– inequalities do exist and something must be done about them so that another Montreal Massacre won't happen. A revolutionary wave hit our country as everyone tried to improve the status of women. The government on its part funded the new women groups; and created panels to evaluate the problems associated with gender equality, and to offer solutions for them (Parliament 10). Slowly, the immediate problems that the massacre brought to light dissipated from people's minds as they realized that the problems were solved; and that women had equal footing with men В– at least that was the illusion, created by the government's actions. However, it has been seventeen years since the massacre, and equality has still not been achieved. Discrimination and violence against women still occurs, in subtler and less discernible ways В– instead of blatantly discriminating women, the government using a series of rules and regulations to do it discreetly, so not even the victims know that they are being treated unfairly. This is especially true in the economic, educational and societal realms of Canada where women are still judged according to ancient prejudices and patriarchal standards, which deprives them of equal pay and equal opportunities in the workplace, fair representation in the educational system, and peaceful relationships with their male counterparts.

Even though women's participation in the job sector has increased considerably since the 1980s, and marriage doesn't confine them to household work anymore; they are still not on the same level as their male counterparts in the labour force (Lib. of Parliament 5). In fact there still exists a wage gap between the genders, and an even distribution of women in the higher levels of a specific occupation is yet to be seen (Lib. of Parliament 5). To prevent this systemic discrimination where men have an advantage over women due to a biased system, and to decrease the wage gap the В‘Pay Equity Act' was created in 1987. Its aim was to provide В‘equal pay for equal work' for women, by comparing a woman's job to that of a male equivalent, so that both parties will receive the same wage (Kainer 91). However, the Act hasn't helped at all because its clauses hide the many exceptions and limitations which prevent women from getting a fair pay. For example: 12% of Canadian women continue to receive low wages because the Act only applies to institutions with more than 10 employees; librarians and nurses are another group who receive low wages due to the Act's inability to give them adequate male comparisons due to the female dominance in their respective fields of work (Kainer 93). Even in the areas where appropriate comparisons exist, there's unfair pay because of one of the clauses, which states that the female wages only need to be adjusted to the lowest possible wages that the males receive (Kainer 93). One way or another, due to the Act's limitations the wage gap between women and men hasn't changed drastically; and an uneven distribution of the genders continues to exist in workplaces.

Nowhere is the aforementioned more clearly seen than in the supermarket industry which employs 300 000 employees and is highly gender segregated. Most of the women work part-time and tend to have the more low-paying jobs (cahier, decorator, and clerical jobs) because they're considered to be menial, while the males not only have the higher positions (managers, administrators, etc.) but they also have jobs such as meat cutter, production clerks, and night production; which are categorized as "male" jobs due to the amount of physical exertion associated with them. For example: in the ON Miracle Food Market only 5% of females are production clerks while in the managerial positions only 6% are females (Kainer 174). Even though this survey was taken in 1987, surprisingly the data hasn't changed at all for these past 19 years. There are discrepancies in the salaries too В– the wages of production clerks is $1 472 more than that of the service clerks (female-dominated), and 57% of women earn less than $5000/yr. while only 36% of men earn the same (Kainer 175). This is not only because of uneven distribution of females due to stereotypes, but also because of the improper implementation of the Pay Equity Act in this industry.

The Act alone isn't responsible for an imbalanced male-female ratio in the labour market, so are the prejudices and gender stereotypes that are etched into the young minds due to our biased educational system. From a young age, children are taught that girls can do certain things and boys certain things. While boys are allowed to be adventurous and curious, girls are supposed to be the proper, clean and tame. It doesn't help that the curriculum content in schools focus on the male scientists, male leaders and male innovators while the female pioneers are ignored or given very little importance (Bourne et al 169). For example: while Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton are well-known for their ground-breaking work in the scientific field; Marie-Curie's work (a scientist responsible for the discovery of uranium) is ignored even though she is the only one to have won the Nobel Prize twice. As a result, girls have very few women role models to look up to; and the idea that men are better than them is engraved into their minds. This type of mentality carries on through all of school, which is why many girls aren't interested in math and technology (considered to be the subjects that only boys can excel at) related work (Bourne et al 169). This is seen in the universities where there's under-representation of females in the engineering/applied Sciences and in math/physical sciences. Even though after the massacre, female enrolment in L'Г©cole Polytechnique increased, it wasn't reflected in later years or in any of the other universities. Only 13% of the student body are women in engineering (undergraduate), and that further drops by a percent in the graduate level (Bourne et al 170). In Math, 27% of the undergraduate population are female while its only 20% at the graduate level (Bourne et al 170). Not only are women under-represented in higher levels of labour force, but even in the higher levels of university education, which is mainly due to their upbringing and media which separates things into appropriate for males and appropriate for females. Even though there are programs to encourage young girls to go into technological fields, it wouldn't be of much help if our curriculum weren't changed to acknowledge both genders and give them equal importance.

The eschewed ideas on a "woman's place" and "male superiority" not only result in fewer women in select fields of study, but also results in high number of men В–who are disillusioned by the portrayal of women in the different types of media В– committing violence against women. The survey conducted by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador states that 51% of women will be victims of violence before they reach the age of 16; and it is interesting that not only has this statistic not changed for almost 20 years, but this is an inaccurate data because only 8% of women reported whether they were assaulted or not ( 1 ). The rest didn't reveal it due to embarrassment, shame and fear of being ostracized. This is not only society's fault for not giving adequate support to these women but also the government's.

Right after the Montreal massacre, the federal government funded many actions such as the Family Violence Initiatives (gave $136 million for 4 years), which helped women battered by domestic violence (Lib. of Parliament 9). Also a nine-member panel was created to evaluate violence against women in Canada and to provide solutions to decrease the numbers (Lib. of Parliament 10). However, these new committees and organizations didn't have the government's funding for long, and soon many were closed or disbanded. In 1995, the Ottawa office of the National Action Committee, which represented 17 groups and 3 million women, was closed due to budget cuts; CACSW (Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women) was disbanded and incorporated into the SWC (Status of Women in Canada), which slashed funds for this committee, almost by half (Lib. of Parliament 10). This reflected on the low priority that women inequality held in our political agenda, and even now with the new conservative government it's the same. Stephen Harper just announced that the budget for the various different women groups will be cut and that 12 of the 16 regional offices of Status of Women will be closed so that the rest of the economy can be sustained (Orsquohanlon A8). Yet only recently did the federal government boast of a $13.2 billion surplus in their budget (Robinson A7)! Many are angered because equality has still not been achieved in Canada, so there's no reason for the offices to be closed. Because of the $5 million budget cut many women in PEI and other provinces won't be able to receive legal aid and can't approach any shelters because of the budget cut (Robinson A7).

In the 17 years since the massacre there have been advancements in every aspect of the economy, yet it seems women inequality has resisted change. Many reforms, legislations and laws have been passed to prevent it and to a casual onlooker it might seem as if our society is discrimination free. All the doors are open to them, whether it be a field of study, or their career, they aren't shunned administrators and employers due to their gender. Yet, when observed closely one can see that the aforementioned is an illusion created by the government and patriarchal society. In truth women are discriminated against daily, but not in discernible ways. From a young age, course curriculum teaches them into thinking that certain aspects of study such as math, and philosophy are only for men; and through media they learn that while that both sexes have their own places in the society, and especially women shouldn't cross the boundaries. Women go into the labour force, there too they are discriminated against and are considered lower to men. Even though they are allowed to work anywhere they want, their salaries and male-female ratio in that specific work setting reiterates the point that gender inequality does exist in Canada (Burt 111). The Montreal massacre opened the eyes of the public to the reality of women discrimination and the damage that it could cause, yet seventeen years of age has erased (or dimmed) the memories from their mind. As a social activist once said, "Equality doesn't come solely from broad social reform. Its about changing yourself"(Weidner C1). Unless the Canadian public acknowledges the problem and works as a whole to destroy women discrimination; no amount of the government's legislations can make Canada a society where women receive fair treatment not only in all aspects of the economy but also in their personal lives.

Works Cited

Bourne, Paula, Cohen, Marjorie G., Master, Philinda, Pierson, Ruth R. Canadian Women'sIssues. 2 vols. Toronto: James Lorimer Company 1993-1995

Burt, Sandra, Lorraine Code, and Lindsay Dorney. Changing Patterns: Women in Canada. 2nd ed. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1993

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Facts on Violence. 2006. 20 Nov. 2006.

Kainer, Jan. Cashing in on Equity: Supermarket restructuring and Gender EqualityToronto: Sumach Press, 2002.

Library of Parliament: Research Branch. Women in Canada: socio economic status and other

contemporary issues. Ottawa: Canadian Communication Group, 1996

Orsquohanlon, Martin. "Conservatives to close most Status of Women offices" The Chronicle Herald. 30 Nov. 2006: A8. Canadian Reference Centre EBSCOhost 25Nov. 2006

Robinson, Kelly E. "Why should I care about the Status of Women" The Guardian. Oct.24, 2006: A7. Canadian Reference Centre EBSCOhost 25 Nov. 2006

Weidner, Johanna. "Future of Women's Progress Belongs to all of us". The Record. May 2005. Canadian Reference Centre EBSCOhost. 30 Oct. 2006

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