The term ‘feminism’ is often misunderstood, as people think it means putting men down or replacing them with women in power. But, put simply, feminism just means equality for everyone.
In 2017, ‘feminism’ was declared Word of the Year by Merriam-Webster, as millions of people around the world explored what it means to be a feminist, and this year, the Canadian theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) was #MyFeminism.
On March 8, WeBC hosted a teleconference to unpack what feminism means today with three changemakers who are on a mission to achieve gender equality in BC.
Fiona Macfarlane is EY’s Chief Inclusiveness Officer, an external role where she spreads the message about how diversity and inclusion in the workforce are important for the health of all businesses. Jill Earthy and Lois Nahirney are two advocates who have tirelessly led the WE FOR SHE movement in BC since it started in 2014.
The women discussed the five P’s of parity: problem, progress, plan, praise and prosper and shared some ways participants can take action today.
Here are 10 interesting points made by the panellists:
- Women earn 74.2 cents for every dollar earned by men. They make up 43.7% of the workforce, but only 5.3% of CEOs. They receive less than 4% of venture capital financing and export at half the rate of men.
- Gender equality programs used to be philanthropic in nature, as in “let’s be nice to women.” But, given the economic potential of increasing women’s representation, it is finally being considered a sound business strategy.
- The entrepreneurial ecosystem, especially financing, was set up for certain types and qualities of businesses. The strength of women business owners is that they do business differently – they want a balance of debt and equity and take more sensible risks, for example. However, the system isn’t changing quickly enough and women aren’t able to access the same networks of customers, influencers and financiers as their male counterparts.
- Feminism has to include men and women working together.
- Stories in the media have brought the conversation front and centre. Now we need to move past talking about gender equality and move into action.
- Diversity programs alone are not sustainable – you need leadership and cultural change within the organization, which needs to be owned by management instead of delegated to HR.
- A key part of the WE FOR SHE movement has been consulting with the government to ensure that policies and systemic changes promote gender equality.
- We need to make room for women at the table – and women need to take up that room when they’re given the opportunity. Women don’t need to act like men to succeed in business, as their unique viewpoint is what makes them valuable.
- In a time when movements like #metoo shine a light on important issues affecting women, it is equally as important to address the parallel uncertainty that has arisen about how men and women should interact. If the pendulum swings too far and becomes polarizing, this could stop the sort of progress that has been made in gender equality movements so it’s important to find balance.
- Think about who has influenced you positively in your career and thank them. Then reach back and help someone else.
The women ended with a great reminder: don’t minimize the amount of change one woman can make by stepping up or saying yes to an opportunity. Ask yourself: if I don’t do it, who will?