Posted by: ae | January 30, 2010

“A liberated woman is one who has sex before marriage and a job after. ”

The Bren Gun Girl

Last month The Economist’s cover story was a celebration of one of the feminist movement’s biggest achievements. The article was titled “We Did It:…” Its focus was on the statistic that women make up almost 50 per cent of the workforce in Europe and North America (exciting…yes?). It was only twenty or so years ago that women struggled to be an accepted and equitable partner to men in the working world. They were expected to work menial jobs for less pay; they were subjected to sexism; and they were expected to abandon their jobs to build a family. Today, they not only make up nearly half the employees but are also climbing up to corporate ladder to top positions (although men still dominate most leadership positions).

This is a statistic to be applauded, however, it seems that society has not been able to keep up with the growth. Although women make up a sizable portion of the workforce, their time in it is limited by their bodies. Often times, maternity leave disrupts a woman’s employment and is often cause for an indefinite leave of absence. It is still difficult for women to harmonize their roles as workers and mothers. Many women feel that they have to choose between their careers and their families- according to The Economist women without children earn almost as much as men, while mothers earn significantly less. The situation is even more dire for single mothers, who are often forced to work at menial jobs, for minimal pay, and live paycheque to paycheque to support their families.

State intervention is one way to alleviate the situation and to encourage and maintain female participation in the workforce. Canada is one step ahead of the US; our government subsidizes maternity (or paternity) leave for up to a year, while the US does not.

Once the mothers do return to work though, where do the children go? In Canada, as in many other Western countries, daycare is under-funded and space is limited. In October 2004 the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) issued a report that was highly critical of Canada’s child care system. The report described Canada’s child care system as “a chronically underfunded patchwork of programs with no overarching goals. It found that many centres were shabby and many workers were poorly trained. As well, staff turnover at many centres was very high.” The report ranked Canada last in terms of public investment for child care. In response, the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada has requested that Ottawa commit one percent of the GDP (approximately $10 billion) on day care within the next 15 years.

Look how far women have come! Despite these issues, women’s movement into the workforce is an inspirational and amazing feat. As a result, we have gained financial independence, empowerment, and a higher standard of living. Well done ladies!

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  1. There are a lot of different options when considering funding childcare. There are a lot of children in our population and a lot of parents who require two incomes to fund their lifestyles. I would not be surprised if $10 billion would only be the start. Also, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered:

    First, do we refund parents who choose to utilize a childcare system? And do we base such refunds on the income of the parents?

    Second, do we subsidize childcare and make it available to all working parents? Or, do we grant money to businesses to provide a childcare space and pay childcare workers themselves?

    Are we sure that it is the government’s responsibility to make mother’s balance of child-rearing and work easier? I would be curious to see how many mothers prefer to stay home and raise their children but must work to pay their bills. Many mother’s choose to work part-time so that they can spend more time with their children. Also, some mother’s refuse to work the large number of hours that would lead to a promotion because they choose to be home in time for dinner.

    I am suggesting that sometimes the reason mothers struggle with this balance is because they want the best of both worlds and there is only so much time in one day.

    I would also like to mention that both male and female taxpayers who do not have children would strongly oppose further tax or government money spent on child-rearing.

    Great post – very interesting and raised a lot of good debatable issues.

  2. Great article and love the picture you chose!

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