Editorial: Building a better society

Food for thought on international women’s day

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘behind every great man stands a great woman.”

It might sound like a compliment for women, but if you stop to think about, it’s not. It implies that a woman can only be successful in support of a man, or that their successes will always be tied to that of a man.

That is changing now, but through much of the 20th century, the accomplishments of women were put aside or hidden as part of a man’s work.

Take Maud Menten, forbidden from doing independent research in Canada in the early 1900s, even though she was a University of Toronto medical graduate. But in 1913 Berlin, one of her discoveries led to the process that allowed enzymes to be purified, modified and targeted as drug therapies.

Viola Desmond, who now graces our $10 bill, was a successful businesswoman as well as a civil rights icon, setting her sights on addressing the lack of beauty products for black women. In the process, she founded her own salon and beauty school. Accomplishments that stand alone.

Then there are the women who worked at the Harvard Observatory as “computers,” doing calculations and detailed examinations of the glass plate photographs shot by the astronomers.

Though they received little public recognition, they were responsible for a number of advances in astronomy, including the system still used for cataloguing stars.

This isn’t to say women were never recognized for their contributions. There have been many famous female artists and writers, for example, and even the occasional scientist like Marie Curie. But the overall idea that women weren’t suited to some kinds of work — even though they were quietly contributing greatly to those fields — is something to be ashamed of.

This has changed and hopefully will continue to change for the better, with women recognized for their contributions in every field of human endeavour. But recognition is just one small part of a battle that isn’t over.

According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, women are 60 per cent less likely to move from a middle management position to an executive rank.

Eighty-seven per cent of all police-reported sexual assaults in Canada are committed against women. Only 12 per cent of all police-reported sexual assaults result in a criminal conviction, and only seven per cent of reported sexual assaults end in a custodial sentence, according to data presented by the Library of Parliament, from the year 2009 to 2014.

Moreover, Indigenous women in Canada are six times more likely to be killed than non-Indigenous women, according to a study by StatsCan, released in 2017.

These are just a few facts around the status of women in Canada in 2018, which was ranked number 16 in the world overall in the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report.

International Women’s Day is all about building a better society where we all have an equal part. When our great-great-great grandchildren are looking back at us a century from now, let’s hope they’re not ashamed of our record.

—Black Press

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