International Women's Day 2017

This year is the second year for the NSTU’s new standing committee on the Status of Women and the second year that the rep packet for International Women’s Day is being made available. Like last year, included is information and suggestions intended to offer ways for people to engage in and celebrate International Women’s Day, whether individually, together at your worksite, or together in your Local

Please take the opportunity to share this information with folks at a staff meeting or other event if you get the chance. A hard colour copy of the poster is currently being sent to your worksites.

International Women's Day - Bill 75 Setback

By Pamela Langille

On March 8 we celebrate International Women’s Day. This is a time to take stock of the trials and tribulations we have suffered in seeking equality for women throughout history and reflect on the ongoing struggles of today as we try to progress toward social justice. While there is a great deal of success to celebrate in the women’s liberation movement, it is imperative that we acknowledge the setbacks at our midst. Just recently, the current government passed Bill 75 and imposed a legislated contract on public school teachers. Make no mistake, the austerity measures used in Nova Scotia by the current government and by many other governments around the country and continent, disproportionately harm women.

While seemingly insidious at first glance, the harmful effects of the ongoing attacks on teachers and the public sector are clearly also attacks on women. Teachers, along with other public sector workers, are predominantly women. In Nova Scotia, women compose 77 percent of the teachers in public schools and close to 70 percent of all public sector jobs. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) Nova Scotia Budget Watch 2015: Through a Gender Lens document stated that these public sector jobs:

  • represent quality jobs, where pay is on average higher than private sector jobs, with smaller pay equity gaps;
  • are unionized and provide good benefits to women including extended health and maternity benefits. In addition, more women in the public sector have pensions (two thirds, as opposed to only one third in the private sector); and,
  • make valuable contributions to the common good.

The gains of the public sector and women are under attack and while these austerity measures will negatively affect everyone, they will indeed affect women disproportionately.

Unfortunately, instead of the government acting in the public interest by seeking to protect public sector employment, women’s civil and political rights, and increase support for public services to provide quality services that will benefit everyone, along with those who need them most, the government acted in the contrary, and has actually exacerbated inequalities and set back the status of women in Nova Scotia. If the austerity agenda was not harmful enough, the government’s approach to move forward with its agenda was laced with the vilification of teachers and actions that undermine the teaching profession.

When reflecting upon the Minister’s Action Plan and how the current government first began its ‘relationship’ with the teaching profession in this province, I liken it to the words of Sabrina Joy Stevens, who wrote in her blog titled ‘Bad’ Women, Teachers, and Politics: “To recap a few years’ worth of disinformation: Teachers, you may have heard, will determine and (especially) economic future of our entire nation. And because we have so many of these bad, lazy (read: unionized) teachers, our students have performed miserably compared to those in other countries, struggled with a persistent racial “achievement” gap and more, threatening the very future of America. All this they’ve done while enjoying lavish pay, benefits and pensions that have bankrupted our budgets.” Stevens continues, “Just as with the ‘ideal’ woman in a broader sense, there is much praise lavished on the ‘ideal’ teacher, who quietly, unobtrusively and selflessly does her work. But when teachers try to have a voice in the decisions that affect them, or advocate for better pay and working conditions, they’re derided as being selfish.”

When the profession is 77 percent women, there is no need to specify women teachers for the image in people’s minds to be women, as the vilification portrays teachers as overpaid, incompetent, incapable of leadership, and selfish. And certainly let us not forget the drain these teachers [women] have on our economy and the tax payers of Nova Scotia as their Union advocates for fair remuneration and working conditions, which become easier to dismiss when demonized as greedy and unsustainable by the government.

The unionization of workplaces, and especially predominantly female workplaces, is a milestone in women’s civil and political rights, and must not be taken for granted. The attack on unions is real, as we have experienced right here at home with the government’s austerity agenda. Canada is categorized as a high-income country and in high-income countries, the majority of women are employed in the health and education sector. “[This] overrepresentation of women in health and education may be attributed to social assumptions which undervalue the skills required for such jobs. For instance, education – and in particular the teaching of younger children – is considered an extension of women’s traditional, maternal role.” Perhaps these assumptions are also influencing the fallible narrative of the current government that teachers [women] needed to be “put in their place” with Bill 75. After all, it was not just “teachers” who needed to be put in their place, but all of the predominately female public sector.

While the rhetoric often used to justify such austerity measures tries to mask itself as gender-neutral and stick to a message of fiscal sustainability and the need for the public sector to compensate for the province’s “fiscal woes,” this is not only presumptuous, but it is simply untrue. As Jordan Brennan outlines in the CCPA document, Growth, Austerity and the Future of Nova Scotia Prosperity, the province’s public spending does not need to be ‘reined in’: “Nova Scotia has more fiscal room than other Atlantic provinces, and it is in the top half of the Canadian federation when it comes to its account balance.” Not only are austerity measures unnecessary in our current economic state, but the evidence presented by Jordan Brennan suggests they “do more economic damage and social harm than good.”

It is important we remind ourselves that the rhetoric of today has a deeply rooted past that many before us have fought against. Our current voice that challenges the government’s rhetoric has been echoed throughout history. At the 1938 National Education Association Convention in the United States, it was stated that “We have to realize that it is not our educational system alone that counts, but educational systems in all the countries of the world…Good education costs money; people do not like taxes, and sometimes the political leaders see no connection between education and future prosperity.” As disheartening as the sluggish progress can sometimes be, we must also not forget that we have roots just as deep and in solidarity we will persevere. The struggle for both social justice and a quality public education is something that we must not forget is ongoing and will not progress without challenge from organized workers. Anti-union actions by governments will continue since they know, all too well, it is only those people who are organized, and fighting in solidarity, that will have the force to break the barriers before us. Just as the saying goes, ‘together we bargain, divided we beg.’

Sources

Brennan, J. (2016). Growth, Austerity and the Future of Nova Scotian Prosperity. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Nova Scotia Office. Retrieved from https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/growth-austerity-and-future-nova-scotian-prosperity

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Nova Scotia Office. (2015). Nova Scotia Budget Watch 2015: Through a Gender Lens. Retrieved from https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/Nova%20Scotia%20Office/2015/04/NS_Budget_WatchGender.pdf

Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action. (2015). Canada: Women’s Civil and Political Rights. Retrieved from http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CCPR/Shared%20Documents/CAN/INT_CCPR_CSS_CAN_20770_E.pdf

International Labour Organization. (2016). Women at Work: Trends 2016. Retrieved from http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/--dcomm/---publ/documents/publication/wcms_457317.pdf

Stevens, S. J. (2012). ‘Bad’ Women, Teachers, and Politics. Retrieved from http://nepc.colorado.edu/blog/‘bad’-women-teachers-and-politics

The Editors of Rethinking Schools. (2012). The New Misogyny: What It Means for Teachers and  Classrooms. Retrieved from http://www.alternet.org/story/156436/the_new_misogyny%3A_what_it_means_for_teachers_and_classrooms

Suggested Activities

Compiled from: http://www.etfopeel.com/EN/committees/statusofwomen.cfm

The following is a list of suggestions to help you celebrate International Women’s Day and the week of March 8th. To help ensure success of any organized event or activity with your students, choose something that suits both your audience and your purpose. Almost every idea can be adapted to suit a classroom setting.

  • Discuss with students the history of International Women’s Day and the purpose for celebrating such a special day.
  • Ask that an announcement be made in the school, along with a brief history of the reason for the day.
  • Write a special diary entry celebrating your won achievements as a woman and what contributions you have made to education.
  • Consider your own economic security. Do you know the facts about your family economics?
  • Explore statistical information about women in the workforce with your older students.
  • Teach a lesson on long term economic planning in your class.
  • Have students make posters to display on International Women’s Day.
  • Share the information you learn about it with someone you think does not understand the need for an “International Women’s Day.”
  • Organize a fundraiser and send the proceeds to support a cause related to the Status of Women. For example, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, which is a Canadian volunteer solidarity group committed to raising awareness to the plight of women in Afghanistan (http://www.cw4wafghan.ca/).
  • Spread the word about International Women’s Day by sending an email or e-card greeting to friends, family, and colleagues that includes a link to the Status of Women Canada website (www.swc-cfc.gc.ca).
  • Place a special message on your fax cover sheet, your voicemail, your website, your email signature, on your computer screen saver, or on your employees’ pay envelopes.
  • Put up the poster produced by Status of Women Canada for the week of March 8th somewhere in you workplace or school.
  • Produce and display your own International Women’s Day poster.
  • Show an appropriate video for your audience on issues of concern to women and hold a discussion afterwards. You may even want to have a special guest participate and lead the discussion.
  • Network and exchange information with local community groups that work to promote women’s equality and rights.
  • Hold a discussion on a topic of concern to the women in your workplace or community. Topics could include: Women and the Internet, Women and the Media, Women in Non-traditional Roles, Wage Gap between Women and Men, Stereotyping and Socio-sexual Roles, Women’s Struggles and Challenges, Balancing Work and Family Responsibilities, Career Choices, Education and Training for Women, Women and Sports, Human Rights of Women, Women and Armed Conflict, Women and the Peace Process, Women and Globalization, Violence against Women, Women and Poverty, Women’s Health Issues, Sharing Power and Decision-Making, Feminism, Gender Relations, Women and Science, Women and the Environment, Women and Research, Women and Volunteer Work.
  • Set up an information fair with displays featuring local resources for women.
  • Hold a “brown-bag” lunch and invite women from several generations to share their personal experiences and efforts to achieve women’s equality.
  • Interview women who have made a positive difference for women in your community or globally. Write an article about them for a local paper or newsletter.
  • Present a show, concert, or a play related to women’s struggles for equality and donate the proceeds to a women’s organization.
  • Organize a photo or art exhibit in your local library, the cafeteria at work or school, etc. featuring works created by women. Invite women’s organizations and the general public to attend the activity.
  • Organize a fundraising event for a women’s organization or shelter for abused women.
  • Create your own celebration with a March 8th brunch or potluck lunch.
  • Be a role model! Bring your daughter, your niece, or your grand-daughter to your workplace.
  • Ask the students to work on a project about women’s challenges or gender equality. They could write a composition, a poem, a book report, a speech, or do a research paper.
  • Lead a discussion on what students can do in their home, at school or in the community to bring women closer to equality.
  • Launch a photography, video, drawing, poetry or essay contest in your school. Perhaps a local store could offer a prize.

Helpful Resources

Canada's Theme:  Equality Matters

Equality Matters because…

The world needs the talents of everyone – women, men, girls and boys – to truly reach its full potential.

Gender stereotypes hold us all back.

We’ve already come so far…equality is the only way to move ahead!

This International Women’s Day, make a commitment to gender equality and share it on social media using the hashtag #EqualityMatters.

Tell us why equality matters to you and inspire your friends to do the same.

Share our mythbusters and tell us what stereotypes you'd like to see broken.

Tag the people in your life who inspire you to work for gender equality.

Equality is good for the economy.

  • According to RBC, the increased economic participation of women resulted in a $130 billion contribution to economic activity in 2012 alone. This is equivalent to approximately 7% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • In February 2016, the international report Is Gender Diversity Profitable? found that an organization with 30% female leaders could add up to 6 percentage points to its net profit margin.
  • Research suggests that having a more diverse corporate board of directors may lead to stronger financial performance for companies; Financial Post 500* companies with higher representation of women on their boards demonstrated a 26% higher return on investment.
  • It is estimated that violence against women costs Canada more than $9.3 billion a year.

Equality is good for children.

  • Father involvement is related to positive child health outcomes in infants, such as improved weight gain in preterm infants and improved breastfeeding rates.
  • Father engagement reduces the frequency of behavioral problems in boys while also decreasing delinquency and economic disadvantage in low-income families.

Equality is good for democracy.

  • Research shows that women in politics raise issues that others overlook, pass bills that others oppose, invest in projects others dismiss and seek to end abuses that others ignore.
  • Where women are able to participate in peace processes, the chances of reaching an agreement at all improve, and the peace is 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years.

Equality is good for everyone.

  • A study of statistics gathered from various equality indexes showed that living in one of the more gender equal countries in Europe was associated with having a higher quality of life and a lower chance of depression, divorce, or becoming a victim of violent death for both men and women.

Click to download a PDF:

  1. International Women’s Day 2017 – Bill 75 Setback
  2. Suggested Activities
  3. Helpful Resources
  4. Context of Theme, “Equality Matters
  5. International Women’s Day Poster

Please contact Pamela Langille, NSTU Staff Liaison for the Status of Women Committee if you have any questions or require additional information at plangille@staff.nstu.ca.