International Women’s Day: Filling the Gaps of Inclusion

Shannon BlackBlogs

Blog By: Rosanna Mascarenhas

I am taking today to celebrate but also to reflect and revisit my feminism and fight for equality.

With March 8th being International Women’s Day, it is a very exciting time to celebrate and acknowledge the women around us, in our communities, and leaders in our societies who continue to be an example for all women around the world. We have come a long way and continue to progress in the goal of true equality for all genders.

While it is true that I, as a woman living in Canada, can do just as much as my brother freely and legally, I know that solely this fact is not the definition of gender parity. If you take a tour through the gallery wall of most organizations’ senior management, it is clear that the goal of diversity stopped somewhere along the way. The IMF’s data on gender and economics shows that countries that adopt and promote women in management roles, economic growth and financial stability follow. Based on that short but impactful statistic, it seems like the answer is simple and we should just hire more women. To Canada’s credit, over half of women here are in the workforce. But this population exists primarily in the service industry and when thrown something like an ‘unprecedented’ event like COVID-19, it reverses the progress we made of women in the workforce.

Already, we are seeing some holes in the simple yet complicated solution of “just hire more women!”. What sectors are women given opportunities in? What kind of roles are ‘reserved’ for women and being perpetuated by hiring practices? What other barriers are some women facing versus others? There are many valid and important critical questions like these to ask. In drastic events like a pandemic, we know that women are being disproportionately affected and further than that woman who are part of other equity deserving groups. For me, the question that is always at the forefront of my mind is, what is the bigger picture that we are missing when we see the disparity of gender in the workplace. If women are being pigeon-holed in a specific sector, at a specific level, and are seeing further disparity in representation amongst different ethnic groups, then the solution of having more women in the workplace is merely a band-aid to the broader downfalls of society where institutions, dated practices, bias, racism, ableism, and other forms of discrimination remain untreated as the underlying problem.

When we approach any example of inequity and discrimination it is imperative to take an intersectional approach to finding solutions. If we focus on a singular view of a women’s identity, we leave ourselves prone to being ignorant of the other parts that contribute to an individual’s story, and experience. If we want to understand what gender equality is, study the gaps, and offer solutions, there are other factors we need to consider. If we see a lack of trans women in our workforce, we have to ask, are we listening to the community and taking the steps to make an environment where every person of every gender expression feels welcome? If there is a disproportionate amount of black, indigenous, or women of colour in your workplace or industry, are we posting roles in the right places, and are we asking fair and equitable interview questions? We can take today’s celebration to include and uplift the stories of all types of women and honour everyone’s unique experiences, successes, and struggles. We can do this while also making ourselves aware and being critical of the gaps that exist.

Today, and every day after, take any chance to celebrate the women around you and those you look up to. Just as we all have different personalities and experiences, it is necessary for us to celebrate all identities that make a woman rather than just spotlighting one aspect of their identity. I am taking today to celebrate but also to reflect and revisit my feminism and fight for equality. I want to make sure that everyone is included in my work to create a more equitable Canda, or else I am only widening the gap between opportunity and oppression.

- Rosanna