Recognizing the barriers that do exist

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Re: “Women in university politics”
Jan. 29, 2009

To the editor:
Thank you, Ms. Pelley. Without you I never would have realized what a glorious state of post-feminism we are living in. Thank God. Now that I’ve “woken up” and realized I have no barriers as a woman in this society because women are running for University Students’ Council president, I think I’ll have to inform all the women in my life that if they feel underrepresented, if they don’t make it to the top, well, it’s just their own damn fault " c’mon ladies, nothing’s stopping you.

Nothing except: the wage gap " at every level of education, women in Canada earn less on average than men. For example, in 2003, women who are high school graduates earned 71 per cent of what male high school graduates earned for full-time, full-year work. Women with post-secondary degrees earned 68.9 per cent of what their male counterparts did for full-time, full-year work. Post-secondary education does nothing at all to narrow the wage gap between women and men.

Ah yes " the glass ceiling in politics. If political participation were simply a matter of individual choice or biological imperatives, the participation of women in politics would be equal in every country. In the 1970s, 15 per cent of Norway’s parliament was made up of female representatives. Norway actively took measures to increase the representation of women in government; it is now about 40 per cent. In Canada, women make up 50.4 per cent of the population but only 20.8 per cent of seats in the House of Commons.

The glass ceiling in business: women may be getting up there, but we’re still not at the top. Twenty-five years ago, women made up just 15 per cent of middle management; now it is around 45 per cent. But the percentage of women in top management 20 years ago was one per cent and now it is around two per cent. Women’s overall representation in corporate Canada will not reach 25 per cent until 2025 (Source: Dr. Louise Atkinson,York University).

Government cutbacks: changes by the federal government since 2006 undercut women’s economic equality, so women have less money to run for office. Changes also undercut childcare so women with children have less time to participate in political life. Also, cuts to the Status of Women Canada’s budget of $5 million, which represents 40 per cent of this federal agency’s administrative budget, because “women are already equal” have affected women.

All of this is compounded by hierarchies of race, class, sexual orientation, ability and so on.

So next time you feel like you’ve been “proven right” in thinking that absence of female representation has no relation to institutional or societal barriers, please, do some research.
" Kaela Stradiott
Social Justice and Peace and Women’s Studies III

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