Our world is seeing change at an incredibly rapid pace. The Western world went from a farm-centered society in the 1700s to an industrial one in just over 100 years. The 20th century saw incredible technological advances, including the first mass-produced car, space flight (Roberta Bondar), and unlocking the secrets of our own DNA. Many of the advancements, both scientifically (Marie Curie) and culturally, have come from women – despite their lack of status during this time. Women’s rights have indeed been improving, but at a much slower pace. Two centuries ago, despite the Industrial Revolution, women could not own property in their own name anywhere in Canada. Just a century ago, when cars were starting to be seen everywhere, Canadian women could not vote.
While there have been many improvements in Canada, women are still not on an equal level with men when it comes to salary, job opportunities, share of household duties and child rearing. The more subtle ways that women are disadvantaged in our society are harder to define, yet pervasive. Women often have a harder time proving their value to male colleagues and bosses, even when the quality of their work is good. While a man may be perceived as ‘in charge,’ a woman with a similar manner may be seen as ‘bossy.’ Such perceptions are much harder to change because they are difficult to isolate and expose. Even when exposed, they are often dismissed.
Looking back over the amazing history of growth and development in Canada, consider for a moment how much more could have been done if women had been allowed to fully exercise their rights and make an impact. Given the times we live in, with the need for more problem solvers in important areas including global hunger, the environment, eradication of diseases and world peace, it is more crucial than ever to secure equal rights for women around the globe. Not only will this improve the lives of half of the world’s population, but it will bring much-needed perspective as well as additional brainpower to the table. We cannot afford to continue without the full engagement of women on a level platform in all areas of society. There is so much to be gained and little to lose in allowing women access to the same rights and privileges that men have.
Changing societal expectations and judgements will not be easy, or come overnight. There is great reason to push forward, however, as the urgency to tackle civilization’s biggest problems grows. Overcoming resistance to equality has to take priority in order to fully understand and manage the world’s most pressing problems. It is illogical at best and reckless at worst to fail to engage half the world in the process of improving everyone’s lives. Nothing should be left untapped in the search for solutions to such challenges as poverty, starvation, disease, and dwindling resources. These are issues that transcend gender, and require opening previously closed minds to advance all of humanity.