When will equality between men and women become a reality? In today’s society women are still stereotyped into the primary caregiver role, when women work they are also faced with juggling childcare and household duties. This can portray them to employers as less competent and capable workers than their male counterparts. Single mothers greatly outnumber instances of single fathers since it is more acceptable for the children to stay with the mother when a divorce occurs. Women are on average living longer than men, leaving our society with an abundance of elderly women living on meagre pensions because they were part of the stay at home generation of women, and pensions go on how much income you made in your lifetime. Considering that one in five Canadian women live in poverty (Morris, 2000) it is evident that economic exploitation and impoverishment are the most crucial issues facing women today.
Wage equality in the workplace between men and women is off by 22%, women only make 73% of what men earn for full-year, full-time work (Morris, 2000). Employer’s view women as less competent, capable and reliable employees because of the family responsibilities associated with being a woman. Married women are primarily responsible for childcare, household duties, and care of elderly parents. The wife’s employment outside of the home is usually seen as less important than the husband’s, because he makes more money or has a better job which requires his undivided attention to maintain. In order to take children to doctor or dentist’s appointments, which are usually only scheduled during the working day, women need to take time off work. This emphasizes to the employer her family is more important than her job and she ends up getting passed over for raises, promotions or over-time hours because of this. Men, on the other hand, do not usually have these responsibilities that take away from their jobs, emphasizing to employers that their job comes first, giving them first crack at raises, promotions and overtime hours. Major family responsibilities, like the birth of a child, a major illness in the family or the inclusion of an elderly parent in the household force women to cease or cut back on their employment. This has a life-long impact on a woman’s wages, pension accumulations, and experience in her chosen field. 56% of lone parent families are headed by women who are poor, compared with 23% of those headed by men (Morris, 2000). Many women decide to stay home and raise their children, which is an honourable thing to do, but when their marriage dissolves and they are left on their own, even if they have marketable skills or experience, they have usually been out of the workforce too long for it matter to employers. For most women who have chosen to stay home to raise their children the only marketable skills they can add to a resume are: cooking, cleaning, laundry, chauffeuring, child care, and multi-tasking. After a divorce the husband gets to keep most of the family’s income while the mother is left with the dependants.
“The inevitable outcome is that, while the standard of living of wives and children collapses upon marriage breakdown, that of husbands rises to the point where they have almost twice as much disposable income as they had before their families split up (Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, 1987).” Single motherhood can also occur from an unplanned pregnancy when the father is unknown or does not want to stick around. Teenage girls who unexpectedly discover they are pregnant are the most disadvantaged because they usually have to quit high school, leaving them without even the most basic grade 12 education. As a single mother, a low paying job is not enough to support her family when she needs to pay daycare, rent, groceries, utilities, bus fare and phone bills. Even with child support payments, if they come in on time or at all, money is stretched to the limit for single mothers stuck in the low paying jobs women with no marketable skills are forced to take. Financial issues facing low-income single mothers affect us all, because the children being raised in these homes may not be getting adequate nutrition, health-care, housing, or education because their mothers are so financially pressed even with working one, two, or even three jobs just to support their family; the children of today are our tomorrow. Chambermaids, cleaning staff, childcare workers, waitresses and receptionists are all relatively unskilled lowing paying jobs dominated by women. These types of jobs are stereotyped to women because these are the types of jobs women have done since the beginning of time. Men are more advantaged because they are more readily accepted for employment in higher paying fields like the oilfield or construction industry, where they can get an entry-level position and work their way up. Physically extensive work such as that done by chambermaids and waitresses need to have the respect garnered to them that they deserve with an adequate wage, similar to that of janitors or sales representatives.
Statistics facing elderly women are even more alarming. 49% of single, widowed, or divorced women over the age of 65 are poor (Morris, 2000). The Canadian Pension Plan is based on earnings, and as illustrated in the above paragraph “women’s work” are some of the low paying jobs around. Unfortunately, the vast majority of elderly women in today’s society come from the genre where women were expected to stay home to raise their children and keep their homes clean. In 1946, only one quarter of Canadian women were employed or looking for employment (Armstrong, Armstrong, 1983). On average men receive $533 a month from CPP upon age 65, while women receive on average $299 a month; 56% of what men receive (Morris, 2000). The American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging reports that over one half of elderly women (52%) and one third (33%) of elderly men will use a nursing home before they die. The AAHSA also reports that care from a free standing nursing facility averages $127 per day or over $46,000 a year in 1995. Health care coverage does offset some of the cost of a nursing home stay and there are also many non-profit nursing homes, but still with the minimal pensions offered to elderly women the costs for them to live need to be supplemented by their families, instilling in the elderly that they are a just a burden to their families. Pensions need to be raised, especially for elderly women who are in the lowest payable brackets, to help them regain a sense of dignity, independence and a better way of life in their final years.
A vast majority of decisions that affect the economical exploitation and impoverishment of women are made by politicians who are predominantly male and who are unsympathetic to the poor in general. These politicians cannot fathom the magnitude of this problem because they are concentrating on more important issues like maintaining relations with other countries or finding ways to increase their own wealth. I, for one, feel this is a very important issue. Women need to be awarded with equal pay and opportunities in the workforce; divisions in labour distribution need to become a thing of the past in order for this to happen. Women need to know that they are welcome in fields like construction and the oilfield, not just in offices filing files and running computers for minimum wage, but out earning the big bucks like the men do. Governments and communities implement programs like social assistance, daycare subsides, low-income housing and nutrition programs funded by our tax dollars to assist low-income families or single parents. Just as much effort should be concentrated on preventing poverty in women by enticing them to enter more male dominated fields of work with higher pay, raise minimum wage, impose restrictions on rental property costs (e.g. the monthly rent cannot not exceed a certain percentage of the value of the home), and strictly enforce child support payments. Women are always seen as the nurturers and caregivers of society, but with so many economical difficulties facing women today, how much do they have left to give to a society that treats them as lesser human beings?
American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (http://www.aahsa.org/)
Armstrong, P., Armstrong, H., “A Working Majority: What Women Must Do For Pay”
Prepared for the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women by the Canadian Government Publishing Center 1983.
Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Integration and Participation: Women’s Work in the Home and in the Labour Force. 1987
Morris, Marika. Canadian Research Institution for the Advancement of Women : Fact Sheet: Women and Poverty. Spring 2001. (http://www.criaw-icref.ca/)