At least fifty per cent of the population has known at some level that the recent finding of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was true – women keep the economy humming along. Even better news is that the Canadian workforce is stronger because of working women. Yes, that’s what I’m talking about!
According to the report, female participation in the workforce increased to 73.5 per cent in 2004, from 67.7 per cent in 1995.
Alas, women did not do this alone – the Canadian government gets some credit for creating a female-friendly work environment by increasing child-care benefits and implementing a few favourable tax incentives. Since 1995, these changes brought thousands of women into the workforce fuelling Canada’s economic expansion.
Tax changes have increased the amount of take-home pay for families, gotten rid of surtaxes and lowered the income tax rates for middle-income earners. At the same time, both federal and provincial governments put more money into child care in the form of the Canada Child Tax Benefit, expanded maternal and paternal leave benefits and invested in early childhood education.
This is all very good news for young families who may find it financially stressful to raise children in a society where the costs of living is relatively high. However, the Canadian government and the business community should not stop here. There are more ways to boost female participation in the workforce and continue to grow the economy.
Here are few areas where we can improve:
- Get rid of the wage gap between men and women. If you thought this was a non-issue, think again. It still exists. Women in the same job or profession are still paid lower than their male counterparts.
- Create secure employment. In a world where nothing is secure any more, this might be hard to do but businesses have to start looking at the quality of their workplaces and invest in their people.
- Businesses must recognize that women also have families and put policies in place to make sure employees can balance work and family.
- Make it easier for young mothers to get better educated. This is the single most powerful way to lift women out of poverty and can help dissipate gender-based discrimination that currently still exists in the workplace.
Many corporations have recognized the need to accommodate their female workforce and are doing more such as having on-site day care and offering the option to work from home. Hitting the proverbial corporate glass ceiling has been an obvious obstacle for many women but some companies are restructuring their promotion practices by creating new roles for women who want to combine partnerships with motherhood.
Remember, It was only a generation ago that women were relegated to menial jobs in gender biased workplaces, well captured in the popular television series Mad Men. Women have indeed come a long way, but there’s still more that can be done. It’s a work in progress, but at least it’s working.