The Mckinsey institute estimates that allowing women to participate fully in the workforce could add approximately 150 Billion to Canada’s GDP by 2026 with Alberta alone seeing a potential GDP increase of 21.3 Billion. But what does it mean to “allow women to participate fully in the workforce”?
For starters it means removing barriers to employment, like the exorbitant cost of childcare across much of the country. Childcare represents the second highest household expense after rent or mortgage payments for many families, a price often paid by the mother, whether through her earnings or through loss of employment because it just wasn’t worth it to keep working.
It also means removing barriers to women obtaining high-productivity positions. Currently women represent only 35% of managerial positions, 23% of STEM positions and 20% of small business owners. This is not because women pursue these positions at a lower frequency than men or are less reliable, in fact, women are 21% more likely to achieve “top performer” status than their male counterparts.
The difference is parenting responsibility and inaccessible childcare.
So, what can be done?
First and foremost we need to examine the current, male-centric system and correct patterns that are exclusionary to women. Investing in affordable childcare and flexible work options to increase the available hours of paid work for women would be a great start, but there’s more to it.
Gender norms damage women’s career prospects, it is expected that if the school or daycare calls or needs something, that the mother will automatically fill that role. This expectation needs to change, in order for women to benefit from equality of opportunity, men need to take on more of the responsibilities of raising their children, which means employers of men need to understand that sometimes Steve is going to have to go to a parent teacher conference instead of his wife.
It’ll take time, and likely won’t be the easiest transition for some, but these changes are necessary for the growth of our country and the people in it.
“You can’t stop progress”-clutch