Thursday, March 8

For those who think women have reached equality

March 8, 2007

"There are myths about women having reached equality and others about how nothing has changed. Both are false and, particularly on this International Women's Day, we would do well to remind ourselves of this reality," according to Ginette Petitpas-Taylor, the chairperson of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

To mark March 8, International Women's Day, the Advisory Council released two reminder lists, one for people who think women have reached equality and one for those who think women have not made any gains.

"The changes made by the federal government in the last few months will have a significant impact on Canadians and groups who work for equality. Those who are disadvantaged have lost some of the supports that Canada had provided. Progress will be slowed. At times like these, it is important to have perspective, to know that equality-seeking groups have made a difference but that the work is far from done."


- 5 women per month are killed by an intimate partner in Canada and almost one out of 10 Canadian women surveyed say they were assaulted by their spouse in the preceding 5 years.
- 879 women reported to police in New Brunswick in 2004 that they had been criminally assaulted by a partner.
- New Brunswick police received 511 reports of sexual assault incidents in 2005, which produces a slightly lower rate than the Canadian average. (Data includes sexual assaults on male and female, child and adult victims.)

Labour force
- On average, New Brunswick women earn 12% less than men, occupations where they are still traditionally clustered are without exception, low or under paid and women remain almost absent from certain levels of responsibility and certain trades and professions.
- Women who graduated from a New Brunswick university in 1999 and who were working full time 5 years later earned 18% less on average than men with whom they had graduated.
- Women who graduated from a Community College in New Brunswick in 2005 and who were working full time 1 year later earned on average 14% less than men with whom they had graduated.

Family life
- 75% of New Brunswick women whose youngest child was less than 6 were in the labour force (and 57% of lone mothers with young children, 2005). However few of them (less than 20%) could find a licensed child care space for their child.
- About 35% of pregnant workers do not benefit from the federal maternity and parental leave program.
- The dramatic increase in the number of families with a working mother has not brought about a drastic change in the division of unpaid work at home. Women still do most of the housework and tend to feel more time-stressed than men do. A 2005 time-use survey showed that Canadian women did on average 4.3 hrs/day of unpaid household work, versus 2.5 hrs/day for men. Only 52% of women with children in couples working long hours reported feeling satisfied with their work-life balance, compared to 71% of their male counterparts.

Women are only:
- 13% of elected members of the Legislative Assembly in New Brunswick, the lowest rate since 1987;
- 13% of mayors and 25% of municipal councillors;
- 16% of judges appointed by the provincial government; and
- 30% of members of boards and commissions appointed by the provincial government, the same level as in 1996. Women are underrepresented on some boards that are relevant to women's interests. Women are between 21% and 57% of members of regional health authorities.
- Public policies do not often include an analysis of women's needs and so some services do not treat women's needs equally:


While 30% of New Brunswick women were in the labour force in the 1970s, 59% of them are in 2006.

Twenty years ago, almost half of unattached elderly women were living in poverty in New Brunswick but in 2004, about 6% are in that situation. Ten years ago, almost two-thirds of lone mothers in New Brunswick lived in poverty, now about one-third are in that situation.

1971: discrimination based on sex was finally prohibited in a provincial law (Human Rights Code).

Until 1967, New Brunswick women who were employed and who got married lost their job if they worked for the provincial government or one of several employers with a policy of only hiring women in permanent positions if they were divorced or married to an invalid husband.

Only since 1965 is New Brunswick's minimum wage the same for women and men, a fact which continues to contribute to the low salary scale of traditional female jobs.

In 1982, laughter and jokes were heard in the House of Commons when the subject of battered women was raised - a new issue for the House and for the times. Not before the 1980s did police in New Brunswick start dealing with violence against spouses in the same way as other assaults. Also in 1980 New Brunswick women gained the right to have custody of their children and support payments had to be paid even if the mother had been adulterous.

A provincial law was required in 1906 for women to be accepted as practicing lawyers - since the Bar society said women could not practice since they were not persons. In 2005, 54% of students in law schools in New Brunswick are women.

The first woman to train as a teacher in New Brunswick (1849) had to wear a veil, arrive 10 minutes before classes, sit in the back, leave 5 minutes before the end and speak to nobody. Women soon dominated the profession and in 1920, female teachers finally won equal pay with male teachers in New Brunswick.

In 1981, a First Nations woman from New Brunswick, Sandra Lovelace, won her complaint to the United Nations to have abolished the section of the 1869 Indian Act, which stripped Indian status from aboriginal women if they married a non Indian man.

1981: a provincial law establishes that marital property must be divided equally upon separation or death - a revolution compared to what was occurring. First Nations women on reserves still do not have similar protection for an equal sharing of property.

Only in 1985 did New Brunswick abolish certain sexist concepts in family law, especially the idea that a husband and wife were "one flesh", his, and that married women lost some of their legal personality. Women could not choose a separate domicile, husbands were protected for loss of the wife's services and they could sue if someone seduced, induced or harboured their wife, or had a "criminal conversation" with her (relations).

For further information, contact Ginette Petitipas-Taylor, Chairperson or Rosella Melanson, executive director of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women at 506 444-4101 or 1-800-332-3087.

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