International Women’s Day: Why Gender Equality Matters in Nova Scotia
NOTE: The following is an op-ed by Kelly Regan, Minister Responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women.
March 8 is International Women’s Day. It’s a day to recognize and celebrate women and girls – in all our diversity – and the difference we make to this world.
When it comes to the issue of gender equality, all of our actions matter. I wish gender equality was no longer an issue in 2020. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Addressing gender equality also means addressing pressing and complex challenges like gendered-based violence, economic insecurity and underrepresentation in leadership.
In 2018, more than 2000 women in Nova Scotia were victims of police-reported domestic violence. This crime is under-reported, so we know these numbers don’t reflect the actual number of victims. We also know that Aboriginal women experience violent victimization at a rate three times higher than non-Aboriginal women. This needs to change.
That’s why our government committed $9 million to Standing Together: A Provincial Action Plan to Prevent Domestic Violence. This plan is government’s commitment to work differently with community organizations, groups and experts to build an action plan to disrupt harmful cycles of violence.
Human trafficking is another form of gender-based violence that’s rooted in gender inequality. Human trafficking and sexual exploitation have a devastating impact on families and communities. That’s why government is investing an additional $1.4 million per year, for the next five years, into programs, services and supports focused on prevention, raising awareness and directly helping victims and survivors.
Gender-based violence isn’t the only manifestation of gender inequality. There continues to be a gap in the salaries earned by women versus the salaries earned by men doing the same work. This gender wage gap persists across virtually all industries and occupations – even though women have the highest rates of high school completion and post-secondary enrollment. This needs to change.
Research shows that greater pay transparency leads to a smaller gender pay gap. That’s why our government has changed the Labour Standards Code so employers could no longer prohibit employees from sharing information about their salaries. It also means employers will no longer be able to ask a prospective employee what they made in a previous job as a basis for their current salary. For women, this can put an end to a lower salary following her throughout her career. This is an important step in addressing the gender wage gap.
Despite higher rates of educational enrollment and attainment, women also continue to be under-represented in leadership and decision-making roles. In more than 250 years, only 50 women have been elected to the provincial legislature. At the municipal level, fewer than one third of seats are held by women. This, too, needs to change. Our systems should reflect the diversity of those we serve.
The Local Government Leadership School for Women happening in Port Hawkesbury in May is a great example of how communities are providing knowledge and tools for women who want to run for elected positions. The school is a collaborative model with women leaders from municipalities in the region and women leaders from the Unama’ki First Nations communities.
The Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women works across these three areas that touch all our lives: living free from violence, economic security and leadership. It’s through working with community, government, and public and private institutions and enterprises that we can advance gender equality.
The theme for International Women’s Day 2020, Each for Equal, is a call for each of us to work together to build a world where all women and girls have equal opportunity to thrive. I invite all Nova Scotians to answer this call.
We are stronger together.