Can you name the common thread between each of these individuals?
If you guessed that they are women who’ve made history through their cultural, political and socioeconomic gains then you’re correct. Since March 19, 1911 we have been celebrating International Women’s Day as a way to honour women’s progress and achievements towards gender equality. Each of the women listed above, along with many, many others from around the globe have made substantial contributions to improve the lives of women.
As a lesbian identifying cisgendered woman I know first hand the struggles faced in the work force as we strive for our place at the white heterosexual male dominant table. I entered the workforce at the age of 14. Since that time my career path has been colourful to say the least. I’ve worked for over 16 different companies in positions that included the fast food industry, customer service, assembly line worker, youth correctional officer, special constable, grocery store clerk, assistant store manager and fitness trainer. In all except 2 of the positions I held, I was under the authority of a white man.
Over the past 100+ years, our society has seen more women enter the labour force, and more importantly, secure managerial roles within organizations than ever before. As of 2019 women over the age of 15 occupied almost half of Canada’s labour force; 47.5% to be exact. A statistic worth celebrating. Sadly, with the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic, women’s gains in the labour force have been threatened.
The pandemic has caused many women to assume more of the caregiver roles within the home. Alongside their careers they’ve also become teachers, homemakers, cooks, caregivers and mental health monitors. This increase in daily tasks has meant some women had to reduce to part time work or had to leave the labour force altogether. Those who have remained at their jobs full-time, have assumed an additional 3 hours and 44 minutes of outside of work responsibilities in comparison to the 2 hours and 28 minutes for their male counterparts.
According to an article by the Royal Bank of Canada, in February of 2020, 61.2% of women living in Canada were working. By April 2020 that number had dropped to 55%. This leads me to my next question and the purpose of this article, what impact do women have in our labour force?
There are many things that women bring to the workplace that must be recognized and affirmed if we’re to ensure our place is valued.
Most women have:
- Steadfast Motivation. We’re not only motivated to succeed but we’re also more likely and willing to inspire others to succeed. Most women hold the philosophy that when we rise, we rise together. Motivation and inspiration are great assets for the success of any organization.
- Effective Communication. Our ability to communicate, network and build relationships is strong. This attribute is something organizations need in order to foster inclusion, cross-functional connection, and teamwork.
- High Standards. Most of us hold ourselves to higher standards than men. This is in part because of our innate need to prove ourselves and our place in the workforce. This is seen in our deep desire to be productive, creative and polished in the work we deliver, even if it means working longer hours without recognition.
- Fairness For All. women enjoy workplaces where there is an opportunity to collaborate and ensure everyone feels a part of the whole. We know what inequity feels like therefore have a strong desire to play fair and work together for the benefit of everyone.
- Care & Concern. If we look at the education and personal knowledge of professions supporting women’s health, who is better suited to support other women, but women? Family doctors performing physical exams, gynecologists, midwives and doulas are an integral part of the labourforce. A woman’s knowledge and understanding of another woman’s body goes beyond the workplace and therefore her level of care and concern does as well.
- Patience. Most women have a higher level of patience than men. These innate qualities serve the workplace especially when we’re forced to navigate different situations, personalities and identities. Moving forward with patience offers time to reflect, show kindness and take conscious action instead of making rash reactions.
- Humility. women are far more likely to make decisions in the workplace that benefit everyone, not just themselves. We tend to see things through a nurturing, sensitive and more emotional lens. These traits create a more welcoming and enjoyable environment for everyone.
As you can see from each of these attributes, women bring a unique set of experiences, abilities, perspectives and innate qualities to the workplace. Am I saying that men don’t? No. What I am saying is that each and every one of us brings something different to the table. Men have their strengths and weaknesses just as women do. Those differences help create humanity and society as a whole. Our differences are what drive innovation, creativity and inclusion. Without the attributes and innate traits of women so much would be lost.
On this very important day, please join me in honour and support for women in the workforce. women of all cultures, ethnicities, religions, sexual identities, abilities and ages. women just entering the workplace for the first time, women in school seeking higher education and better jobs, those thriving in careers alongside men, and those who have impacted the workforce for years. We’ve marched our way into the workplace and we’re here to stay.
Today, and everyday, we need to celebrate our accomplishments while we forge onward, striving for an even better future.
Malala Yousafzai, an educational activist for girls once said, “we cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.”
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