BY SARAH VEENSTRA
According to the World Economic Forum, gender equality within the workforce isn’t actually to be considered “equal” until 2133. Another 117 years.
This estimate was based on a survey in which 400 male and female leaders from companies worldwide stated what they feel women’s biggest obstacles and supports are in the business world.
It’s for this reason, that this year’s International Women’s Day’s theme is Pledge for Parity – asking men and women alike to pledge how they can help take one step toward gender equality in the workforce.
This global cause will also be touching Conestoga College’s Doon campus, just as it has for the past three years.
“At Conestoga, we strive to promote International Women’s Day (IWD) as an inclusive event focused on global citizenship that is open to all community members,” said Chelsea Winn, Student Life programmer and co-ordinator of IWD. “This year, the committee has chosen the theme Building Our Value Together, which we will combine with the official IWD campaign Pledge for Parity. We have been able to schedule a fantastic guest speaker, Lucie Edwards, who will be able to speak to the chosen themes from the lens of global citizenship.”
Edwards served 33 years in the Canadian Foreign Service as Canada’s high commissioner to Kenya, South Africa and India. Edwards also received the Public Service Award of Excellence for her humanitarian work during the genocide in Rwanda and was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award of Excellence by the Department of Foreign Affairs in 2009.
In honour of this year’s theme, some women shared their own pledges of what they can do to further gender equality in the workplace. First-year pre-health science student Morgan Karley’s pledge was a frame of mind, and coincided with Conestoga’s chosen theme of Building Value Together.
“Coming from a Mennonite community, I see first-hand how some cultures tend to speak more to males than females,” Karley said. “Personally, I think equality in all cultures is what I would like to see, rather than in just one culture. Gender equality isn’t just important for one group of people. I want to be viewed equally to my male counterpart. I guess my pledge would be to be independent. I don’t need a male to tell me what I can or can’t do.”
“I pledge to support men who wish to play a role in our field,” said Jami Litster, a first-year student in early childhood education (ECE) of her pledge to support gender equality in her own field. “A lot of men are looked upon like they shouldn’t be here. Oftentimes, it’s part of our job to change a diaper. Men wouldn’t be allowed to do that because they’re men.”
“There’s nearly 80 people in this program and four men,” said a fellow first-year ECE student Amanda Brown. “I realize it’s a female-dominated industry but it’s time to break stereotypes. Breaking those stereotypes of male to female roles pushes us closer to gender equality.”
This year’s IWD event will be held on March 8, from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Student Life Centre in the lower atrium of Conestoga’s Doon campus. It will feature interactive activities and a free breakfast provided in partnership with Conestoga Students Inc.
“I would encourage all students to come out and support the event,” said Winn. “It’s an exciting opportunity to hear an accomplished and empowering speaker, participate in engaging activities, share a meal with others in the community and be a part of a global movement for parity. This is a great way to both celebrate and strengthen the inclusive and diverse community that we have here at Conestoga.”