164 years until gender parity 

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This is not an editorial I want to write.

In fact, it's one I want never to write again, but the reality is I will probably write it for many years to come.

Sadly, my prediction is upheld by a recent report titled Unfinished Business, by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

It found that between 2006 and 2018, the gender gap narrowed by less than a quarter of a percentage point per year on average.

Young girls will not see gender equality in their lifetime "if we let it continue at a glacial place," Andrea Gunraj, vice-president of public engagement for the Canadian Women's Foundation told Global News this month in response to the report.

At this rate, it will take 164 years to close the gap, she said.

The report was done as a follow-up to a 1995 meeting in Beijing where some 50,000 activists, advocates and other world leaders met for the fourth global conference on women. At that time, Canada ranked first on the UN's gender equality index. We now sit at 18th, after rising from a low of 25th in 2015.

Those attending wanted their nations to address issues such as poverty, education, health care and more. Absolutely, there have been gains made on these fronts around the world, but it is also clear we are nowhere near parity between men and women.

In Canada, women who are racialized, who are Indigenous, who live in the north, and who experience poverty would argue the dial is barely moving for them at all.

And our stats for violence against women are shameful for a country that considers itself, and is considered by others, as progressive.

The Unfinished Business report tells us that nearly half the female victims of violent crime have disabilities.

The first annual report by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability released last year found that a woman is killed every other day in Canada, once a week a woman is murdered by her partner and one in three women will experience some form of sexual violence over the course of their lives.

And the discrimination continues to have another dark underbelly in Canada, one that is illustrated by the fact that we mark a day on the calendar symbolizing how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.

Discouraging.

This year, Equal Pay Day is March 31.

Earning less also means there is less opportunity to save, and since women generally live longer than men, this has a domino effect on healthcare costs and so on.

According to a recent ADP LLC study, women surveyed took home an average pre-tax salary of $51,352 in 2019 compared with $67,704 for men—a 24 per cent gap (775 working men and women were surveyed).

Men received more than twice the additional compensation of bonuses or profit sharing than women—$7,646 versus $3,250, according to the survey. There was no explanation in the study as to why this disparity exists, but Statistics Canada research in 2019 found that women are consistently over represented in the lowest–paying jobs, many in the service sector; in some cases, this is driven by the fact that they have the monopoly on reproduction. (The ADP LLC study found 46 per cent of women took parental leave compared to 16 per cent of men.)  

Obviously, the wage gap is due to a variety of causes, such as differences in education choices, differences in preferred job and industry, differences in the types of positions held by men and women, differences in the type of jobs men typically go into as opposed to women (especially highly paid, high-risk jobs), differences in amount of work experience, difference in length of the work week, and breaks in employment. These factors resolve 60 to 75 per cent of the pay gap, depending on the source.

Various explanations for the remaining 25 to 40 per cent have been suggested, including women's lower willingness and ability to negotiate salaries, and discrimination.

We also know that women take breaks from their careers to have kids and often raise them enduring years of the "second-shift" lifestyle—so men can catapult up the ladder ahead of female colleagues.

We have come a long way with many fathers taking on much greater responsibility for raising their families, but the workplace is nowhere near parity on this.

And we cannot escape that Canada's gender wage gap in 2018 ranked fifth largest among 29 countries at 18.5 per cent, according to a survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. South Korea, Japan, Israel and the United States had the highest disparities, while Belgium, Greece and Costa Rica the lowest.

It's disturbing that these inequalities continue to exist especially in the face of the economic powerhouse that is the female purchaser. Global spending by women is around about US$18 trillion with 70 to 80 per cent of all consumer purchases made by women.

What may be getting lost in this narrative though is the incredible potential of women worldwide.

When will that be realized?

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