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Beyond the Women’s March – We need to fight as hard for our careers as sexual predators do

The Ottawa Citizen by Kelly Nolan 19 January 2018

Disgraced “knees together” former judge Robin Camp and broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi battled harder for their careers than we have collectively fought for equal pay for equal work in Canada. They hired lawyers and pleaded their cases passionately.

As we knit our pussy hats and prepare for the upcoming Women’s March Saturday, many mothers will tell their daughters that they can be anything, achieve everything if they just work hard and get the right education. All the data indicate that this is a lie.

Women represent 50 per cent of the talent pool but we aren’t leveraging our collective power in any significant way. We quietly accept that we earn 74.2 cents for every dollar that full-time male workers earn. It’s a gap that has not changed significantly in the past two decades, yet we waited for Donald Trump to be elected to get angry and mobilize. I am ashamed I did not fight harder for my daughter and me.

The recruitment page for the RCMP has the expected photograph of a smiling woman proudly wearing the uniform, and boasts: “As Canada’s national police service it’s important that we are a leader in employment equity hiring.” I bet the photograph is not from one of the roughly 1,100 women who make up the class action suit against the RCMP for sexual harassment and discrimination claims. We have heard similar shocking statistics from corrections, policing and military sectors. 

Beyond the posters for recruitment, these workplaces have done little to significantly improve the systemic discrimination against women. So why are we quietly accepting it?

Women are the ticket to ensuring Canada can compete in the knowledge economy. Our nation will not have the necessary workforce to compete otherwise. There are more women graduating from university than men. Sixty-two per cent of all university undergraduates are women – about the same percentage of women experiencing harassment in the workplace.

want better for my daughter, my nieces and their friends. I am pissed off that I did not do more earlier because we have always held the power to insist on change.

Why are we applauding as some of our male leaders and CEOs pay lip service to gender equity and lend support for the victims in the #Metoo movement? Why are they so easily deserving of the adoration? Given the years of complacency, they should be working harder for our cheers.

After this weekend’s march, I hope many women march back to work and take advantage of the new reality post-#Metoo. Leaders are uber-sensitive to being perceived to be on the right side of this issue. Let’s make them earn the hero worship that ensues when men become allies.

Here are some ideas on how to take action after the Women’s March:

• Ask your employer to do a salary and compensation review to ensure equal pay for equal work. Ask them publicly at a full staff meeting. How can they say no?

• Have them implement blind recruitment strategies to avoid discrimination against women and underrepresented groups.

• Have them track promotions and work assignments to uncover instances of unconscious or gender bias and report the data transparently to their employees.

• When being recruited for a new job, insist your contract does not obligate you to sign a non-disclosure agreement in cases of harassment and insist that you have an independent third party to manage harassment complaints. Stand firm if they twist and turn in their seat trying to justify why this can’t be done.

• Connect and build alliances with the most vulnerable women in your organization. They are the targets that powerful predators prey upon. Advocate for them.

• Speak up about the creeps in the office women normally whisper about amongst themselves.

• Insist diversity and inclusion are part of the organization’s key performance indicators.

Marching in solidarity is inspiring, but it is  also time to get to work. Our daughters are watching. Let’s show them that owning our power means more than a group selfie at a march this weekend.

Kelly Nolan is Executive Director of Informed Opinions, which works to amplify women’s voices for a more democratic Canada.