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Still a long way to go

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Bagnall, Janet
Publication Date: 
4 Mar 2010

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In 1910, more than 100 women from 17 countries gathered in
Copenhagen to vote in favour of a Women's Day. A hundred years later,
it feels like by now women should be a lot closer to true equality than
we are.

Too often, it's a case of two steps forward, one back. In the
last few weeks Canada's female Olympians, who have few other athletic
competitions open to them, poured their hearts into the Vancouver
Games. They dazzled their country by winning the lion's share of a
historic number of medals.


How are women doing overall? Not great. Women make up 70 per
cent of the world's estimated 1.2 billion poor, according to the United
Nations. Women do 66 per cent of the world's work, produce 50 per cent
of its food, but earn only 10 per cent of global wealth and own only
one per cent of property.

While the average wage gap worldwide was under 20 per cent, in Japan in 2006 women earned only 51 per cent as much as men.

The United Nations also reports that women are concentrated in job sectors that are badly paid and offer few protections.

In the undeveloped world, honour killings, female infanticide,
genital mutilation, bride killings, and sex trafficking add an extra
layer of horror to women's lives.

In developed countries, there has been undeniable progress.
Women have crowded into universities and the professions, a majority
working full-time while raising families.

But the fact is that even in countries where women have made
enormous progress, their advancement has stopped short of equality. All
those degrees, all those long hours at the office were supposed to lead
to equality - of opportunity, pay, and advancement.

While they wait, women keep hearing that their turn will come:
Once there are enough of us "in the pipeline," the most talented and
driven among us will become CEOs and board members.

But that's just wishful thinking, new research by Catalyst Inc.
has found. Catalyst, a group working to expand opportunities for women
in business, tracked more than 4,100 graduates of elite MBA schools
around the world, to find that with no difference in ambition or skills
or devotion to family, women no matter where they were in the world
were hired at a lower level than men, paid less than them - and never
caught up.

There seems little point waiting for government to legislate
correctives. Barely 22 per cent of MPs in Canada are women. Around the
world, women hold an average of 18.4 per cent of seats in national
assemblies. Who in male-dominated legislatures answers to the world's

A hundred years ago, women argued that it was necessary to make Parliament more democratic by extending the franchise to women.

Franchise in hand for nearly a century, it's time women used
Parliament to make their lives more democratic. First, they must run
for office.

- reprinted from the Montreal Gazette