Advocacyfor Economic Equality: Strategies and Outcomes
Economicequality, like fairness, is an important value held by civilizedsocieties. Inequality can be a signal of lack of income mobility andopportunity. A dissertation on economic inequality brings to thesurface the distinction between inequalities of opportunitiesattributed to differences in situations beyond a person’s control,such as gender, and inequality of outcomes which is determined byincome or wealth at hand. (Platt, 2011) Women, as it turns out arethe most affected lot.
Thedefinition of economic inequality according to feminist advocates isarrived at by looking at both the man and woman through a feministlens. This kind of approach creates a new picture that portrays menas the dwellers of financial epiphany. The reality is that majorityof both men and women are economically disenfranchised and shouldfight together to narrow the economic inequality. Despite thecontinuous fight for gender equity, the rate of closing up the gap ongender inequality at the work place over the past two decades hasregistered a meager 2.3% growth. (Procyk, 2014) Bridging this gapthrough periods of domestic and global economic slumps has made iteven more difficult since firms are cutting down costs to survivewhile unfortunately bypassing the benefits of investing in genderequality.
Advocacyhas its roots from the word advocare which means coming to one`s aidas a legal defender. Advocacy is effected through various activitiessuch as organizing, lobbying, and campaigning. Feminists advocate theuse of a gender-based analysis rather than using a gender neutralformula when pursuing economic equality. In her book, Agnew advocatesfor the use of this approach since the latter is known to workagainst efforts fostering gender equality. (Agnew Vijay, 2006) Otheradvocacy strategies employed by feminist advocacy groups such as YWCACanada, includes identifying emerging issues, conducting originalresearch on institutional barriers, and designing policyrecommendations for both government.
Strategieshave also been directed towards the redefining the role of men in thework place to ensure policies informing human resource management andrecruitment policies capture the commitment to fulfilling genderequality. (Oxfam Canada, 2011) Research and their consequentfindings done by feminists on economic inequality done by ‘malestream’ researchers have been underrepresenting the plight ofwomen. (Rebic, 2005)
Someof the causes of economic inequality are the reliance on marketforces to determine income, tax systems that are not sufficientlyprogressive, gender and wealth concentration. (Era Dabla-Norris,2015) Gender prejudices have been the main focus for feministadvocates. These prejudices are based on preconceived opinions ratherthan objective and empirical findings. Women disproportionately bearthe burden of family responsibilities and as a result, they lack theopportunity to develop complex skills and knowledge that would makethem fit for diverse areas of employment. Dee Ann notes that womenhave been encouraged to labor in departments such as secretarial thatlack opportunities for executive advancement. (Schwanke, 2013) As aresult, executive positions have remained a male dominated fielddespite the rise of women into the mid-level management jobs. Theresults of these prejudices manifest themselves in the inequality ofoutcomes which undermine a woman’s occupational choices. Anotherresultant effect of gender prejudices is the irregular employmentpatterns experienced by women. This means that only a few of thosewho are unemployed can qualify for employment insurance. Chances ofqualifying for employment insurance are slim for those who registerfewer hours of work. 2012 statistics showed that a mere 37% ofunemployed Canadian women qualified for routine benefits, compared to45% of their male counterparts. These prejudices hinder efforts inpoverty reduction.
Thesolution for economic inequality has always been driven by theultimate goal whereby women in Canada, and around the world canaccess the same chances and opportunities just as their malecounterparts and be equal participant and contributors to society.Various strategies have been employed to effect this solution. Theprivate, public and para-public sectors had to be engaged. Thedesired outcome was to have women and men live in a better Canadaowing to the advances in gender equality. Recent research shows thatthe gender wage gap is much lower in the public sector than it is inthe private sector. Women employed at all levels of government earnmore than their private sector counterparts. Such a rare feat oughtto be protected even in the wake of federal budgetary cuts. Agender-blind approach is discouraged to avoid the perpetuation of apatrilineal workforce.
Advocatesof economic equality came up with objectives and identified severalsteps to follow. One of the steps was engaging the public in civiceducation for a creation of awareness through a gender-basedanalysis. To this effect, workshops, symposiums, and colloquiums withthe stakeholders. Economic equality was then packaged as an aspect ofhuman rights. Advocating for the equal valuing women`s labor bothpaid and unpaid followed suit. The outcome of this particularobjective was positive and led to the adoption of policies, enactmentof gender-sensitive laws. Examples of gender sensitive laws includebut are not limited to the Canadian Human Rights Act amendment in1983 that ban discrimination by pregnancy or a woman`s maritalstatus. The introduction of the Employment Equity Act in 1986affecting Crown corporations and federally controlled firms.
Anotherobjective was to increase the ability of women to identify and takeadvantage of economic opportunities, make and conclude economicdecisions and be able to challenge social-cultural jaundiced norms.Certainly, this objective is yet to be accomplished. Another majorexpected outcome was to have women rise to both mid-tier and top-tierpositions of leadership in the corporate world a false perceptionhas for some years been touted by the media that women have achievedgender equity at the work place but statistical data contrasts thisnotion. This is another example of an outcome that did not meet theobjectives as pursued by the feminist advocates.
Feministadvocates of economic equality would over emphasize on thecontrasting inequalities that exist between men and women at theexpense of the greater problem of general economic inequality in acountry`s population as expressed by the Gini index. While positiveprogress is being registered in the bridging of gaps in genderinequality over the past four decades, the inequality gap between theelites and the non-elites has increased over the same period. (TheWorld Bank, 2014)
Afair conclusion can be made on the effectiveness and practicabilityof the solutions proposed by gender advocates after analyzing thesituation before and after their implementation. These solutions werenot exhaustive especially because they have not yet sufficientlyaddressed economic inequality even though they appeared to beexhaustive at the time of their inception. Barriers presentedthemselves as women organizations were trying to identify whichspecific issues to vocalize. This lack of clarity became a barrierbecause most women issues turned out to be issues of the community.Later on, this problem was dealt with by identifying issues that weredirectly affecting women only. Several unintended outcomes wereregistered in the quest of securing economic equality. One of thembecame manifest with the embracement of the right to paid maternityleave. A lengthy maternal leave from work has over the years led tothe development and entrenchment of the undesired norm, that womenshould be the sole duty bearers when performing domesticresponsibilities. As a result men, on the other hand, are sociallyperceived as secondary players at the domestic front.
Anotherunintended outcome advocates are wrestling with, is the personalcosts that women have to incur when striving to reach the topechelons of business and political leadership. These personal costsinclude preceding and detaching from parental responsibilities. Thesesenior positions that few women occupy come with sexual harassmentgender stereotyping, tokenism, prejudice, and even isolation. Womenoccupying executive positions are often subjected to prejudicialattacks as Dee Ann (2006), succinctly captures their ordeal. Thesewomen receive demeaning tags such as “the seductress” or the “theiron maiden” that not only discourage them women from maintainingtheir executive positions but also discourage other women aiming tooccupy these posts.
Havingthe benefit of hindsight, feminist advocates of economic equalityought to have pushed for the entrenchment of a lengthy paternal leavebefore campaigning for the extension of maternal leave. Thisparticular approach would have helped the women folk escape someunintended outcomes. Such outcomes include the societal notion thatdomestic tasks are a preserve of women only.
Inconclusion, the pursuit of economic equality requires a partnershipof both men and women and a paradigm shift of societal and corporateattitudes to realize the full benefits of economic equality. Effortsought to be channeled towards the destruction of the political,financial and legal order that is controlled by few men whoperpetuate the ever widening economic gap between the elites and thenon-elites. Feminist advocates can achieve this momentous task bypartnering with the non-elite men.
AgnewVijay, e. a. (2006). Canadian Feminism in Action.” A special issueof Canadian Woman.
EraDabla-Norris, K. K. (2015, June). Causes and Consequences of IncomeInequality. Washington, DC: IMF. Retrieved September 26, 2016, fromhttps://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/sdn/2015/sdn1513.pdf
OxfamCanada. (2011). Walking the Walk on Women`s Rights: Report of theOxfam Canada Gender Audit. Ontario: Oxfam Canada. Retrieved September26, 2016, fromhttp://oxfam.ca/sites/default/files/file_attachments/walking-the-talk-on-women2019s-rights-summary-report-of-the-oxfam-canada-gender-audit_1.pdf
Platt,L. (2011, August). Understanding Inequalities: Stratification andDifference. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Procyk,S. (2014, October). Understanding Income Inequality in Canada1980-2014. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto. RetrievedSeptember 25, 2016, fromhttp://neighbourhoodchange.ca/documents/2015/02/understanding-income-inequality-in-canada-1980-2014.pdf
Rebic,J. (2005). Ten Thousand Roses: The Making of a Feminist Revolution.Toronto: Penguin Books.
Schwanke,D. A. (2013). Barriers for women to positions of power: How societaland corporate structure, perceptions of leadership and discriminationrestrict women`s advancement to authority. Earth Common Journal,18-19. Retrieved September 24, 2016, fromhttps://journals.macewan.ca/index.php/earthcommon/article/viewFile/125/112
TheWorld Bank. (2014). Gini Index. Retrieved September 25, 2016, fromhttp://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.GINI