Next Tuesday is International Women’s Day (IWD), a time set aside where we recognize and celebrate ordinary women who have played extraordinary roles throughout history and in our communities.
It’s a day to inspire women, celebrate achievements and the progress made worldwide towards equality.
IWD is an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Laos, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.
It’s also a national holiday celebrated only by women in China, Madagascar and Nepal. The day sees many men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends and colleagues with small gifts or flowers, similar to Valentine’s Day.
IWD was first observed in the early 1900s, during the turn of the industrialized world. The first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States on Feb. 28th, 1909.
From there, IWD has expanded into a global movement and is celebrated across developed and developing countries.
In Canada, the day has far less public recognition, even with the significant change in society’s outlook of women’s equality and emancipation.
According to Stats Canada, 8.1 million Canadian women (58.3%) were employed in 2009, more than double the number in 1976.
Also over the past three decades, employment rates of women with children have increased. In 2009, 72.9% of women with children under 16 living at home were part of the workforce. In 1976 the number was 39.1%.
Stats Canada also released the information that women are still less likely to be employed than men, with the exception of younger women age 15 to 24. The majority of the female workforce continues to work in traditional female occupations.
In 2009, 67% of employed women had jobs in education, healthcare fields, sales and services and clerical and other administrative positions. Only 31% of employed men work in these female-driven fields.
Women have also expanded their role in managerial and professional fields. In Canada in 2009, women made up 37% of those employed as managers, an increase of 7% from 1987.
Despite these progressive changes, some may say women have not gained true equality. Women are still not present in equal numbers in business or politics. Globally, in regards to women’s education and health, their conditions are considered much worse than that of men.
Girls are now welcomed into schools and universities. Women can work and have a family. They have real choices. IWD is a reminder of the still existing struggles and a true celebration of the positives.