The way to go: A perspective on International Women’s Day

It had been something of a challenging week when SHARE Family & Community Services.CEO Claire MacLean took to Twitter with thoughts about International Women’s Day.

“I am a CEO, wife, daughter, sister and mother. I worry every time I work late & walk in the dark alone to my car,” MacLean wrote. “I rarely get through a week without being mansplained to in a meeting, I’ve had my ass grabbed by former bosses. #IWD2022 is still vital.”

There was probably “a little bit of frustration,” behind those words, MacLean said afterwards.

But while Twitter may make that conversation difficult, MacLean emphasized the importance of having that conversation, even if it is difficult.

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“There’s part of me that is uneasy talking about some of this,” MacLean acknowledged, discussing the impulse to be nice and polite. “I don’t want to be seen as complaining.”

Gender pay gap

Canadian women generally earn about 89 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to statistics from the federal government. And while the gender pay gap has narrowed it hasn’t vanished.

“It’s really important to recognize that gender disparity and gender inequality still exist,” MacLean said.

Gender inequality isn’t confined to take-home pay, MacLean notes. Many companies are doing better on the issue of pay equity. But female employees often find themselves expected to plan the holiday party or to play secretary during a meeting

“Nine times out of ten it’s going to be a woman that ends up taking the minutes,” MacLean said.

Even something that seems straightforward, like a job posting, can play a role in furthering the pay gap.

“We know that when salaries aren’t listed that it’s women who tend to get underpaid,” she said.

Looking ahead

Going forward, it will likely require a united effort to create substantive change, according to MacLean.

“It’s going to take women continuing to advocate but it’s also going to take men standing up,” she said. “I’ve certainly had meetings where I certainly felt like my voice was not being heard by whoever was chairing the meeting and it took another man saying: ‘Oh Claire, what do you think about that?’”

In the simplest terms, it takes everybody at the table, according to MacLean.

“It matters,” she says. “It matters in terms of having that diversity of voices at the table, the level of respect for those voices and how we create those opportunities, matters.”

MacLean also emphasized the struggles faced by women of colour and women in the LGBTQ2+ community.

“I’m very, very aware as well that I’m privileged,” she said. “I’m a white female. I work in health care, which has a lot of female leadership in it. . . . There are a lot of women out there that are fighting even more uphill battles than certainly I’ve experienced.”

Overall, MacLean said she’s optimistic about the future. But that doesn’t mean the work is over.

“I think we’re improving,” she said. “All the more reason to keep pushing that bar and striving for the next level.”

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