A survey released last week is a reminder of how little women’s lives have changed. The Prosperity Project, in partnership with Pollara Strategic Insights, surveyed parents working outside the home in Canada and found that one third of women were contemplating leaving their jobs to attend to “home responsibilities” during the pandemic. Apart from being concrete evidence of the stress the pandemic has had on families, this poll is also evidence that the responsibility of raising children falls to women.
On its home page, The Prosperity Project declares that it was created to “stop COVID-19 from setting back Canadian women”. It is an organization of women working for women, recognizing the pivotal role that Canadian women play, beyond raising Canada’s children.
This is not to say that the care of Canadian children and families is not a worthwhile occupation. That is the old canard hurled at Canadian women when they deign to insist that successive Canadian governments should fund childcare and provide other tangible support for them and their families. The point that Canadian women have been making is that, without us in the workforce, Canada will not prosper. Canada needs women who work outside of their homes to be prosperous. The economic growth of Canada depends on women being able to fully participate, in every way that men do, in the Canadian economy.
As school started this year, as families decided whether they could safely send children back to school, it was the women in those families who contemplated whether they could continue to work outside of home. Having been in that situation myself, I am certain that women with higher paying jobs wondered about “cutting back to part time”, in the hopes of a compromise. This group of women has resources, but taking successful workers out of the economy will not help a country progress.
What about women who do not have resources? What about women, whose marginal incomes, kept artificially low over many years, by governments and other male-led organizations, who will go hungry and poor for life knowing that only they can ensure their children’s safety? These mothers need the few women there are in government to push beyond other loyalties to that clearly more important loyalty to help each other look after home and family. Looking after Canadian women and children includes paying women properly and moving toward pay equity. Moving toward pay equity means ensuring that the employers of women cannot cheat them out of a fair wage using loopholes in Canada’s laws.
Throughout decades of not creating childcare programs, Canadian governments have continued their platitudinous reverence for motherhood and childrearing. What these statement do is bolster the patriarchy, keeping women in their place while pretending that their place is a special bower and not a prison.
The survey conducted for The Prosperity Project shows us that Canadian women will sacrifice themselves for their children’s wellbeing, as any mother does. Why don’t all Canadians care about the prosperity of women? Why don’t all Canadians remind their governments that we need women’s leadership in the workplace and in our nurseries.
Will Canadians finally force the Canadian government to help women look after Canada’s children?