04 March 2011

Women's Group Blocks Equality

Ref: CBC's On the Go

Here's some information about me, to give you an idea where I am coming from: I was raised by two working parents, where both cooked, both did housework, both did home repairs, both chopped firewood. There was no 'man's-work, women's-work' in our house. There was just work. I have worked side-by-side with women and men in retail, warehouse, technical theatre, broadcasting, and call centres and throughout that work, it has never even occurred to me that there is a difference between the sexes, as far as work is concerned. Physically, I have worked with strong women and weak men. I have worked with creative men and non-creative women. What has always mattered most to me is a person's ability to do the job, not their gender.

Currently, I am a stay-at-home-Dad (homemaker it would be in game show land). My wife works; I look after our son.

On The Go interview with Daphne Hart of the Women in Resource Development Corporation

Things to listen for:

Ted's statistics about women earning less than men. The comparison he cites is for full-time employment, i.e., men working 40 hours a week earn more than women earning 40 hours a week. The implication of this statistic, as cited, is that women earn less than men for doing the same work. In fact, this disparity does not arise directly from gender differences, but from job differences. The fields in which the majority of women are employed - retail, clerical, caring professions - are lower paid careers. Men working in those fields receive exactly the same pay. Some content that these job are low-paying because they are traditionally women’s work. Others, me included, maintain that this is because, as a society, we do not value that work. But whatever the cause, Ted's presentation of those statistics is misleading and implies widespread gender bias where none exists.

Daphne's anecdotes about women being passed over in favour of men, implying that this is something that only women face. Daphne's presentation focuses on how to get women working in skilled trades, with statements implying that men don't want women on the job site and that companies don't want to hire them. What she totally neglects is the lack of women going into training for these trades. While she doesn't actually use the word 'equality', she clearly sends the message that women are being kept down by men. She also clearly says that companies need to prioritize the hiring of women. In other words, hire women because they are women. Is that not every bit as biased as not hiring them because they are women?

My Reaction

NOTE: When I was listening to the On The Go interview, I was taking the snowblower to my driveway. So initially, I wasn't paying rigidly close attention to Daphne's message. Second, I didn't actually catch her name or her groups name. After the fact, I couldn't find out either, but I assumed the speaker was with Women in Non-Traditional Employment Roles (WINTER). Obviously, this is incorrect, but I don't feel it negates any of my arguments.

If you want a specific comment for WDRC: presumably most of the administrative assistants in Resource Development are women. What is the WDRC doing to encourage more men to enter that field?

Ingrid Fraser reads my email
(And does an amazing job with it!)

Text of Email:

Dear Ted,

I listened with interest to your interview regarding Women in Non-Traditional Roles. And, I must admit, with a certain amount of disgust.

As long they focus solely on one gender, this organization is actually perpetuating inequality. They are drawing a line between women and men, continuing the gender division, not eliminating it. If they are serious about equality, then what is this organization doing to promote men in non-traditional roles? Does the organization think to promote the cause of men who wish to be nurses, or kindergarten teachers, or daycare workers, or florists? Or are they operating on the assumption that a man can get any job he wants?

If so, then they are very mistaken.

I myself have been denied jobs in service and retail sectors because they only hire women. Gender bias goes both ways. My son’s kindergarten teacher is male and interacts wonderfully with the children. Yet his colleagues are almost apologetic when discussing him. Their tone, and sometimes statements, say ‘Yes, the teacher is a man, but he’s a good teacher,’ as if this is a shameful fact or his gender needs to be justified to some.

We, as a society, can not truly embrace equality so long as groups such as this one continue to divide us by our gender. If this organization was actually working towards equality, it would be called People in Non-Traditional roles.

Best Regards,
Jeff Rose-Martland

The Following Day...

According to Ted, my email helped set off a 'firestorm of reaction'. The call they played, apparently supporting me, didn't. It was a guy who seized the opportunity to rant about how everyone would like to stay home with the kids but men have to go off to Alberta and work. Well, I heartily disagree with that. I know plenty of women who hate staying home with the kids. I enjoy it, but its hard work and annoying and not everyone is cut out for it.

Besides, my point has nothing to do with who does what. My point is that if we are truly going to have equality between the genders, then we have to stop thinking of the sexes as different. When sorting job applications, no one should be thinking 'man...woman...man..." no matter what the job is. This should be the goal of these groups: the achievement of equality where all that matter is job skills, not sex. By promoting the advance of a single gender, these organizations stand in the way of that achievement.

Not to mention that should one attempt to start a group dedicated to the advancement of men, I suspect there would be massive hue and cry about sexism and possibly charges for violating the Charter of Rights.

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