October 5, 2020

Making and celebrating her story

Since 1992, Canadians have officially marked Women’s History Month in October, celebrating the achievements and contributions of women and girls across the country and throughout our history as business leaders, politicians, researchers, artists, and activists. The month is highlighted by two events in particular: International Day of the Girl Child on October 11, a United Nations international observance dedicated to empowering girls to become female leaders and change-makers; and Persons Day on October 18, marking the day in 1929 that five trail-blazing women fought for and won the right to be appointed to public office and participate equally in all aspects of life in Canada.

While these three events call for celebration, it’s also a time to reflect on what still needs to be addressed to empower more women to achieve their full potential. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted what some are calling a she-cession and similarly the latest data from Statistics Canada shows that female employees still earn $0.87 for every dollar earned by men. We also know that women and girls are more likely to experience gender-based violence, and many Indigenous women and girls are missing and murdered.

Empowering women is essential to continued economic and social growth, especially in the context of a pandemic. In the recent Speech from the Throne, the Liberal government promised to create an Action Plan for Women in the Economy. Colleges and institutes will be vital to the development of this plan, and many already lead initiatives to further the economic well-being of women:

  • George Brown College’s Women Transitioning to Trades and Employment program is an innovative, integrated, and supportive program for women and gender non-binary, trans, and two-spirit people who are looking for stable employment and interested in trades and construction related fields. The program is designed to increase the number of people from under-represented groups entering and being successful in the trades!
  • NorQuest College’s 1000 Women: A Million Possibilities campaign has raised over $3.3 million to support removing financial obstacles for female students and enabling them to pursue education and achieve their goals.
  • At Nova Scotia Community College, the Ocean Awaits Award for Women and Indigenous People, recognizes the significant financial, social and cultural barriers faced by women and Indigenous people when pursuing post-secondary education and aims to offset tuition costs and encourage greater participation in marine training and careers.
  • Cégep de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue has been working in partnership over the past three years to adapt its First Nations Police Technologies program (Techniques policières des Premières Nations) to recommendations from the National Inquiry of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
  • Okanagan College’s Gateway to the Building Trades for Women is an all-female, 12-week exploratory program introducing women to trades such as carpentry, automotive, plumbing, and electrical through active participation and exploration.
  • At Aurora College’s Yellowknife North Slave Research Centre, researchers are collaborating on the Welcoming the ‘Sacred Spirit’ projectconnecting Indigenous and western ways of knowing to optimize maternal health delivery. Other areas of focus include femicide, domestic abuse, and women’s health in rural and remote communities.
  • Many colleges and institutes are also involved in our Education for Employment programs abroad, one of the important ways we are working to advance women’s equality. All of these programs aim to help vulnerable populations achieve parity, particularly women, and contribute globally to Sustainable Development Goals 5, 4, and 8: gender equality, quality education, and decent work and economic growth.

A sustainable recovery plan for Canada needs to do more to empower the women, transgender, and gender non-binary individuals in our lives. Through support systems, targeted training opportunities, and female-oriented research projects like these, we can do more to unleash the achievements held back through implicit bias and systemic gender inequality.