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Cracking the glass ceiling

Thoughts about women on International Women’s Day

Campus and Community

By Dr. Vianne Timmons

While there is so much to celebrate on International Women’s Day, I sometimes get discouraged.

This year’s theme is: equality is the goal and equity is the means to get there.

I get disheartened that we still need a designated day to recognize women around the globe that needs to explicitly state that equality is the goal.

I apologized to my daughters a few years ago.

I thought my generation had cracked the glass ceiling. I was wrong.

Still facing barriers

Consider higher education in Canada.

In 1970, 13 per cent of faculty in the country were women; by 2019, that number had risen to 41 percent.

Better — but men are still advancing further. One reason is that they attain higher professional rank, while women apply for tenure later and don’t negotiate salaries as often, so they earn less.

As for university presidents, only 30 per cent are women.

I was the first woman president of the University of Regina and the first woman president of Memorial University.

But it’s not enough to be first: two women who were the first women presidents of the University of British Columbia and the University of Alberta were also the only ones.

“This is not a woman’s issue but a societal one.”

It’s clear women still face barriers and it will take a collective effort to break the ceiling.

We need to celebrate women who are making change.

We need to build workplaces where women thrive.

We need to improve equity for women in areas such as technology and sport.

And we need to promote empowerment principles.

Celebrate and take action

This is not a woman’s issue but a societal one.

According to global management consulting firm McKinsey, advancing women’s equity in Canada has the potential to add $150 billion in incremental GDP growth by 2026.

Getting women out of the home, into school and the workplace is just good economics.

Women in past generations fought for their rights and I stand on the shoulders of my mother and my grandmothers.

I thought my generation had broken the glass ceiling, but we didn’t.

The fight for equality continues to ensure our daughters have the same opportunities as our sons.

On International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate all we have achieved while taking action for a better future.

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