Celebrating Empowerment: Reflections on International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is a global occasion that celebrates the many achievements of women worldwide. Yet, more than that, it serves as a reminder of the ongoing journey that lies ahead to break the ever-present glass ceiling and reach gender equality. As we commemorate this occasion, let’s look back at the evolving roles of women, the strides they have made in various fields, and the challenges still ahead.

The Legacy of Canadian Women in Social Movements

Throughout history, women have played their part in shaping nations, communities, and families. In Canada, women have been a major component of numerous social movements, advocating not only for equal rights but also for education and professional opportunities. From the Famous Five, who fought for women’s recognition as persons under the law in 1929, to Thérèse Casgrain, who became the first female leader of the CCF in the 1950s, Canadian women have left indelible mark throughout history.

Today, we see hundreds of women activists continuing the legacy of their predecessors, advocating for diverse causes ranging from reproductive rights to environmental justice and indigenous rights. These individuals include:

• Activists like Jaime BlackPhyllis Webstad, and Jessica Danforth, who champion Indigenous women’s rights, are raising their voices to shed light on the abuse and mistreatment this community still receives.

• Figures like Adrienne Clarkson and Marci Ien, who are a strong advocate for women’s rights, reproductive rights, and gender equality. 

• Entrepreneurs like Stephanie Thompson and Dr. Mary Wells, who are breaking down barriers in education, making STEM subjects accessible to all women

Refining Gender Norms: Evolving Roles of Women

Over the years, women’s roles have evolved significantly from their confinement to domestic duties. Now, more than ever, women are overcoming formidable challenges to assert their rights and pursue their aspirations to excel in traditionally male-dominated fields.

Slowly but surely, women are rising to the forefront, serving as leaders, reformers, and agents of change in diverse arenas. According to recent studies, 11.3%of countries have women as heads of state, and 9.8%have women as heads of government. This is a massive jump compared to a decade ago when the numbers stood at 5.3% and 7.3%.

Women also contribute more to the economy as entrepreneurs, professionals, and workers, driving innovation and progress. In the last five years, representation has increased at every level of business leadership. According to a 2021 survey, 100% of S&P 500 boards now have female representation, and an estimated 75% have three or more female directors.

Challenges to Progress

Yet, despite the many steps women have taken forward, disparities persist. Women continue to face gender-based discrimination, unequal pay, and systemic barriers that hinder their full participation and advancement. The statistics reveal stark realities holding back half the world’s population:

• Globally, approximately 50% of working-age women are involved in the labor force,  compared to 80% of men. This labor gap has remained virtually unchanged in the last 30 years.

• For each $1.00 men earn in income, women earn only 51¢. In Canada, conditions are slightly better but still less, with women making approximately 87¢ for every dollar earned by men

• Only 8% of Fortune 500 CEO positions are held by women.

• Only 6 countries, namely Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden, give women equal legal work rights as men.

To boost women’s rights and involvement worldwide, we need more investment in women’s education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. These efforts can yield significant dividends, not only promoting greater gender equality and inclusivity but also enhancing economic growth and social development. There is no question that when women are empowered, societies thrive.

Renewing Our Commitment to an Equal Future

International Women’s Day is a momentous occasion where we can reaffirm our commitment to women’s empowerment and gender equality. As we mark the day by honoring the trailblazers who have paved the way for progress, we must not overlook the challenges that still persist. It is essential we continue to amplify the voices advocating for change because that is the only way we can build a more inclusive world. One where every woman, young or old, can realize her talents and contribute to the betterment of humankind.