I tried to write a blog post about International Women’s Day...

It’s challenging to write about this day says VCC’s executive director Meaghon Reid

8 March 2023

A post by Carole Saab, a leader whom I greatly admire, caught my eye this morning as I was scrolling Twitter. It captured my exact sentiment about International Women’s Day:

Further posts and conversations with fellow women leaders today have similar undertones. In short, it feels angrily disingenuous knowing what we know, and worse, knowing that the intentional, targeted, large-scale action that is required to fix things every day of the year is falling short.

So what do we know?

  • There continues to be a serious underrepresentation of women with intersecting identities in corporate Canada. Women of colour hold only 9.4% of women-held leadership roles, and while this is an increase from 2022 (6.2%), there is still more work to be done. Indigenous women remain below 1% representation with 0.3%, while 2SLGBTQIA+ women and women with disabilities rose slightly to 1% and 1.5%, respectively. (The Prosperity Project)
  • The gap between compensation for men and women in the non-profit sector continues to show men earning more than women at all management levels. This gap is largest among executive leaders at 19%. (Charity Village). This is telling as most of the systems change work related to gender is happening in the NFP sector and women comprise the majority of the NFP workforce.
  • Following the 2021 federal election, women made up 30% of members of Parliament (MPs). Canada ranks 56th in the world in terms of the share of female parliamentarians. (Statistics Canada)

Given these stats about women in leadership and decision-making roles, and how we value and compensate those roles, it’s unsurprising that we see correlating impacts in our community on women.

Our Beneath the Surface report uncovered that male participation in the labour force in Calgary is almost TEN percentage points above female participation, while women are almost 2.5 times more likely to be working part-time than men. It also uncovered that men continued to have substantially higher employment income than women (for males in 2020 it’s $50,800 compared to only $35,200 for women). And a stat included from the Business Council of Alberta reports childcare eats up over 40% of the second earner’s net income for a two-parent family with a single child, while a family with two children would spend 70%. For heterosexual couples, the woman is the lower income earner 74% of the time, and women often show a lower rate of workforce participation.

When women are meaningfully represented and engaged in leadership bodies—such as legislatures, courts, executive boards, community councils—laws, rulings, and decisions are more likely to be inclusive, representative, and take diverse views into account. Women’s leadership within households, including decision-making over land and household income, improves access to education and healthcare for their families. Countries with a greater proportion of women as top decision-makers in legislatures have lower levels of income inequality. (Women Deliver).  Women in leadership is a poverty reduction strategy. But we already knew this, right?

The burden of systems change as it relates to gender disparity cannot be laid at the feet of women in the grassroots who are vastly underpaid and undervalued for this work. It also can’t lay solely with the non-profit sector. It must include change in decision making roles across all parts of our society.

After the fleeting power of today quickly turns into nostalgia, how are we creating the conditions for things to look different from everything (EVERYTHING) we have ever experienced - something that makes us radically change who we are as a society rather than celebrate small gains that don’t stand the test of history? The starting lines and necessary actions are all around us. You know where to start, so start today.

I dedicate this blog to my colleagues on the VCC team and to the countless incredible women who I have the privilege to work alongside in our community who are fearless in the quiet and extraordinary space in between International Women’s Days where we keep showing up, doing the work, and making change (for $5.66 fewer dollars on the hour than men ;).

Beneath the surface

We explore stats like the ones referenced above in our new Community Wellbeing Report.