International Women’s Day is a yearly celebration of the achievements of women and a time to take stock of all that’s left to accomplish to ensure women have equality of circumstances and opportunities.
There is much work to be done. Women and girls face systemic barriers to inclusion and prosperity and as a result, have higher rates of poverty and mental health challenges. Those who face multiple barriers are at higher risk, including racialized women, women with disabilities, and single mothers.
This deeply resonates with me, not only with our collective role of United Way, but also as a parent to two daughters.
On many fronts, the toll of the pandemic has been borne by women and only made gender equality worse. Ten times more women than men have fallen out of the labour force since the pandemic began in 2020.
Gender-based violence, economic stress, the burden of caregiving and housework, and barriers to support services have come together to increase the risk of isolation for women in Canada over the last few years.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #EmbraceEquity, which aims to get the world talking about why “equal opportunities are no longer enough.”
While often used interchangeably, equality and equity are not the same. Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. It assumes that everyone starts a race at the same place and has to cover the same distance.
Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome. It recognizes that for some, the race to the finish line is much longer because the starting line isn’t in the same place as it is for other competitors.
Equity requires thoughtfulness about the barriers that people face and putting in the hard work necessary to level the playing field. So practising equity is how we get to equality.
Each and every one of us can, and must, play a part in actively pushing for equality within our own sphere of influence. Collective activism has always been needed to create social change. Everything, from what we do in our homes and workplaces to government policy, builds the momentum necessary to create a truly gender equal world.
It’s time for everyone, everywhere to embrace equity in all its forms. In the words of International Women’s Day : “Don’t just say it. Think it. Be it. Do it. Value it. Truly embrace it.”