A word from FGM – March 2021

As we head towards International Women’s Day on March 8, let’s have a closer look at the situation of women and girls in Greater Montréal. More specifically, let’s look at some data to gain insight into the autonomy of women, the advances we have made, and the systemic barriers still standing in our way.

When it comes to education and employment, women in Greater Montréal have clearly made progress since the 1990s. The number of women with university degrees is up significantly, and in fact they now outnumber men. Our 2020 Vital Signs of Greater Montréal report shows that the rate of employment among women in Montréal climbed from 72.4% in 2001 to 81.6% in 2019, a jump unequalled in the rest of Canada. But there is a downside: among immigrant and Indigenous women, the employment rate hovers between 50 and 60%. So it is more accurate to say that some women have made progress. Grave injustices still persist, and an intersectional approach is needed to help remedy them.

In recent years, we have also seen that more women are holding positions of power; Managing businesses, starting their own firms, or going into politics. Montrealers elected their first woman mayor in 2017 in a historic election. That vote also yielded, for the first time, a City Council with male-female parity among elected representatives. The classic phrase, “representation matters”, rings true. Nonetheless, when it comes to boards of directors or senior management, most businesses are far from having achieved equality. In many sectors, even though women outnumber men in graduating cohorts and in entry-level jobs, they are still fairly rare in the upper echelons. At the top of the pyramid, the glass ceiling is holding firm.

We still have a ways to go.

Rightly, we celebrate the increasing percentage of women who get degrees. But we cannot ignore those who leave school before getting a diploma. Let’s remember they are about 20% more likely than their male counterparts to wind up living in economic insecurity, or be unemployed. Nor can we forget that those who do manage to get jobs despite having dropped out of school will earn up to 20% less than their male colleagues. In fact, overall, equal pay for equal work has not yet been achieved. A gap of about 10% still exists between men and women who hold equivalent positions.

These numbers are not at all surprising. In 2015, women in Quebec devoted, on average, 14.5% of their time to household work – versus 10.2% for men. Conversely, men devoted 17.1% of their time to their professional lives, versus 12.9% for women. Mothers of young children experience this even more acutely. In short, even today, the mental load and day-to-day responsibilities at home are not evenly distributed. The ongoing pandemic did nothing to help the situation — just the opposite. Not only did more women than men lose their jobs due to the crisis, but they also bare the burden of most of the extra work that resulted from having to take care of children who were at home due to school closures, and online schooling.

What about FGM?

The bottom line, then, is that even though more and more women have the capacity to take their rightful place, the power structures in place are holding many women back.  At FGM, we are committed to incorporating the concepts of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion into all facets of our work. From our internal policies and governance, to our investment policy, right through to our hiring policies and our granting, it all matters. Gender equity is a key element of this commitment. To get there, we will centre women’s and girls’ realities in framing the issues we will focus on in 2021. Among those are food security, homelessness, mental health, and climate change. We will actively seek the input of feminist organizations as we search for innovative solutions to these issues.

Have a great International Women’s Day!

Tasha Lackman
Vice-President, Philanthropy and Community
Foundation of Greater Montréal

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