I recently learned that today, September 22nd, is American Business Women’s Day, the anniversary of the 1949 founding date of the American Business Women’s Association. While I’m both Canadian and live in Canada, it still poses a good opportunity to take stock on both where we’ve come from as well as where we’re headed.
According to 2009 Statistics Canada data, we’ve come a long way since the 70s. Close to 60% of women in Canada are employed, more than double the number in 1976. Women with children are more likely to be employed than in the past (73% in 2009 vs. 39% in 1986), and women’s representation in both professional fields and managerial positions has increased. Today, more women are self-employed (up to 12% of women vs. 9% in 1976), and a 2012 study suggests that 71% of women would like to start their own business. From my observations, it is becoming both more acceptable and more feasible than it’s ever been to be a working woman with or without children.
Despite this progress, I do have a few challenges with where it seems we are / may be headed.
First, we still have not made enough progress in wage equality. In 2011, women earned an average total annual income of $32,100, only 66% of men’s $48,100. When holding constant variables such as age, education, occupation, etc., this moves up to 92% but that’s still not good enough. There is progress to be made on compensating individuals fairly based on their education, skills, and experience – not factoring in their gender, even implicitly. There is no easy answer to this issue, though we can all do our parts in promoting equality, whether it be negotiating compensation with these figures in mind, hiring and providing opportunities to employees based on merit and potential alone, and challenging ourselves to acknowledge and remove any biases we may have.
My second challenge is that with the rise of the “working mom”, there often appears to be judgement directed at those women who don’t choose this route. Whether a woman stays at home with her child(ren) or goes back to work does not reflect her abilities as a mother, nor does it reflect her ambition, intelligence, or aptitude. I believe that success is defined by the individual, and we all have our own values and goals. The path we take as well as how we get there is a personal choice that need not be criticized.
As women, we need to continue to set and reach for our goals, recognizing our environment, but not falling victim to it. We need to support one another, without competition or judgment. And we need to recognize that we have the opportunity to shape the future of our daughters and granddaughters to empower them to conquer their dreams – whatever they may be.
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