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International Women’s Day: Count me out/in

Steve Campbell

Steve Campbell

I know it’s a little belated, but I didn’t get a chance to join in the celebrations of International Women’s Day. I’m sure that being a guy had nothing to do with it. But I have a few comments, since I was not asked to be a guest speaker, probably due to my high testosterone levels.
To start: I do not believe in International Women’s Day. I also do not believe in Gay Pride Day, St. Patrick’s Day or, despite my Scottish heritage, Robbie Burns Day.
I don’t really believe in any day that is chosen to elevate our standing in society, according to our race, sex or cultural background.
But, before you start gathering bricks to toss through my window, let me say it  might be more accurate to say: I wish we didn’t need an International Women’s Day.
Because, quite frankly, despite our Canadian flag-waving for multi-culturalism, religious tolerance and total equality of all Canadians, we refuse to acknowledge that we still treat women as second-class citizens. They, along with our native Indians, are still the disenfranchised in this country, despite lame government programs that pretend to balance the scales.
Canadians of every race and colour and language and religion have earned the right for equal pay with their peers. Stop patting yourself on the back for a minute and take a look at the wages offered to women in this country.

Ever notice that big-money corporations are heavily staffed with women? Go into your bank, your big box store, your retail outlets and take a real look. Women are chosen, not because they’re smarter or better – though they often are – but because they will work for less pay.
This should be an embarrassment to employers everywhere. But it’s not.
The acknowledgment of women as a driving force in the economy of the country is virtually unrecognized, while we openly embrace anyone else with open arms.

In my analysis, it dates back to the days when women were considered to be too stupid to vote. You all know the women who changed that, but it was a grudging acceptance at best.
In the 1950s, a ‘good woman’ dressed in Pat Perkins day dresses, looked after the kids, made meals, and had a pipe and slippers available for her man when he arrived home from ‘bringing in the bacon’. They probably also had obligatory sex, judging by the future growth in population, but most couples married in the ‘50s will deny this.
This was the perfect role for women, since slavery was abolished in the late 1800s.
Despite the amazing changes in the world since then, I think the mentality still exists – that women provide a supporting role for their bread-earning men, or their stinking-rich corporate bosses.

I have a couple of bizarre anecdotes to relate – one of them quite personal.
First, let’s flash back to the U.S. in 1850, when Frederick Douglass was fighting to become the first black man to hold a high government rank.
Recognizing a kindred downtrodden spirit, he was heartily supported by the Women’s Suffrage movement. Douglass acquired his position and, when the women returned to ask for his support to gain the vote, he basically said: “I got mine; you get yours,” which is something I’m sure many women have heard before.
My second story involves my daughter, who came to me for advice one summer. She had obtained a degree in anthropology, but ended up working for an insurance company. Not surprisingly (to me) she adapted quickly to the job. Then she found she was called upon to train a young Sears-model man, to become her superior. Then this happened again, and once more.
My advice to her: “You are ‘glass-ceilinged’. You have no future with this company. You will never move up in the chain, because you are too valuable training your future bosses, and then doing their work.”
Then I asked her what she really wanted to do, and her answer was immediate. So she went back to school, retrained for a new job, and is now very successful in her field.

There seems to be a mind-set that women are more ‘desperate’ for a job than men. Sadly, in many cases this is true. A single mother can easily be victimized, since she no longer has the ‘macho man’ to support her. Women who want to use their skills to build a rewarding career are eager to take a lower job at lower pay, just to get in the door. Just like everyone does – when they’re 18!
This drives many women into starting businesses of their own. In fact, most of my clients are women and, despite the rigours of meeting the demands of government paperwork, payroll, and contrary customers, perform admirably.
In fact, compared to my male clients, they seem to have a much greater sense of the ever-flexing needs of their markets, and they move faster on their feet when it comes to getting the job done.
Hell, I feel like trading in some of my testosterone for estrogen, but I’m a little worried about the side effects – like having an urge to buy 100 pairs of shoes.

I’m not trying to win points with women here, it’s just that I have a big problem with established systems which just don’t seem to ‘get it’ when it comes to seeking out people according to their skills.
To me, it’s a Canadian tragedy, when I see so many people who are well-employed, and hate very minute of it, bargain for job security regardless of their performance, and work as slowly as possible, out of spite. And yet talented people, fresh people with motivation and ideas, are relegated to subservient jobs.
How do you build a country on that? The answer is: You can’t. Which is why Canada moves at the pace of a snail carrying a turtle on its back.
I don’t know how to fix it. International Women’s Day is little more than a group hug, or a sophisticated pajama party. Proving – as if you need proof – that you’re okay, and sharing the pain of your gender. And, really, it’s a private party. No corporate HR guy is going to attend and have an epiphany that perhaps his hiring policy is geared towards good-looking young guys who look great in a suit and know something about sports.

In an economy like this, most people need to settle with the job they have. Few have seen a wage increase in years. And like the Depression years, “If you don’t do the job, there’s a line-up behind you.”
We all need a lift. But women deserve to be at least lifted to the ground floor. Then, maybe, we can rebuild the Canada we used to have. A productive one.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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