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Time moved ahead today, albeit by only one hour. But what if time never moved ahead and todayís Canada, for example, had remained frozen in 1950s values?
Earlier this week we celebrated International Womenís Day. Letís imagine for a moment how different life would be today if the role of women had remained unchanged over these past six decades.
Statistics Canada notes that only 24% of women between ages 15 and 54 were part of the labour force in 1953. Some of us recall that many of those jobs were in so-called traditional female occupations----nursing, secretarial work, waitressing, teaching, retail sales or social work. In that same year, 96% of men were gainfully employed. More significantly, in 1951,only 11% of married women were working outside the home.
Fast forward to more recent statistics: In 2014, now 82% of women between ages 15 and 54 were in the labour force, while male employment declined slightly to 91%. By 1994, job rates for married women had reached 58%.
Why the dramatic increase in the numbers of women in the labour force? Availability of the pill in the 1960s meant females finally had gained control over reproduction choices. Fertility rates tumbled from 3.9 children per female in 1959 to 1.9 children by 2011. Employment became a viable option or addition to motherhood. The womenís movement opened the doors to many occupations and professions formerly considered less welcoming of women. The rapid postwar expansion of the Canadian economy created far more demands for workers than could be filled by men alone.
Letís assume none of these sociological factors had occurred. Letís imagine todayís Canada remaining stuck in that above-mentioned 1950s culture. What would our nation look like if only 24% of females and 11% of married women worked outside the home.
The many downsides of my "what if?" are
... society would lose the vital contribution women have made to the workforce through their creativity, intelligence, education and experience
... females who rightfully seek to fulfill their vocational potential and dreams are denied that opportunity, which would be grossly unjust
... men would have to continue carrying the heavy load of being sole income-provider and those resultant longer hours on the job would rob them and their family of time together
... women not working outside the home would not have created wealth which would have increased consumer spending which, in turn, would create more jobs and subsequently more wealth etc.
As a son raised in the 1950s, I recognized only in my later years that my mother was a stay-at-home parent both by choice and circumstance. The role of fulltime homemaker---or lead parent--- is a worthwhile calling, a viable option for those women (or men) freely choosing that path.
As a parent and grandparent of females, however, I am also thankful we are not stuck in the 1950s. More choices for women obviously are now available. Yet, while much progress has been made, further goals still remains to be achieved.
On International Womenís Day, the CBC reminded its radio audience listening to "As It Happens" that, while females represent 45% of our labour force, they occupy only 20% of Board seats and, even worse, only 5.4% of CEO positions in corporations.
I am grateful that society has advanced toward greater equity and choice for women over these six decades. Over this same period, the male place in family life has also evolved, toward a greater involvement in parental and domestic roles---but that remains a subject for another column.
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Saturday, March 11, 2017