International Women’s Day, 2016
I was privileged to have been raised by strong women. Because of them, I was never aware that gender could hold me back.
– Hon. Patty Hajdu, MP & Minister for the Status of Women speaking on February 11, 2016 at Calgary Chamber of Commerce event on advancing women into economic and leadership positions
Today, we celebrate the success of women in social, economic, cultural and political achievements. And yet, the World Economic Forum predicts the gap in gender parity will not close until 2133. Research shows that over a lifetime, a woman with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn a third less than a man with the same degree and that gains in salary made through the 1980s and 90s have levelled off with salaries earned by men once again pulling ahead.
I have blogged before on the importance of looking at new models of business, of creating inclusive work environments, inviting work-life balance into the mix to ensure the kinds of organizations we create respect diversity and offer flexibility to accommodate the choices and commitments women are so often called upon to make as primary care-givers. The lean-in movement popularized by Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 book and online community of the same name, tells us that it is a relatively straightforward concept for women to take a well-deserved seat at a table reserved for any and all contributors regardless of gender. But women are reluctant to put themselves forward for fear that prevailing workplace norms will require a compromise in meeting priorities related to family and community. In The New Soft War on Women, authors Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett write of the double-edged sword of ‘mommy jobs’ where opportunities for advancement are slim, pay and job security low and promises surrounding flexibility to accommodate family commitments slow to materialize.
This year, with International Women’s Day adopting the theme of gender parity, we are asked as citizens, leaders, influencers, and parents to pledge to: help women and girls achieve their ambitions, challenge conscious and unconscious bias, call for gender-balanced leadership, value women and men’s contributions equally and create inclusive, flexible cultures. Since men are more likely to have sponsors – senior executives with the connections that make a difference in career advancement – this year, I pledge to illuminate the path to leadership, showing women that the opportunities to fulfill their potential can and do exist. Through effective role modelling and with compassion, we can make workplaces welcoming places, allowing women to contribute fully, each according to her capabilities.