Calls for greater gender parity as International Women’s Day approaches

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WATCH ABOVE: About 100 people gathered in Edmonton on Sunday to mark International Women's Day. This year's theme is gender parity, and residents say there is still lots to be done to get there. Julia Wong reports – Mar 6, 2016

EDMONTON – Roughly 100 people gathered in Strathcona neighbourhood this weekend to mark International Women’s Day.

The event officially takes place Tuesday across the world but organizers in Edmonton held a local march and rally ahead of it. This year’s theme is gender parity.

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Organizer Siobhan Vipond said the purpose of the rally is to discuss how women continue to have to fight for equality.

“We’re not seeing that yet in city councils. There are other opportunities, [like] when you look at boardrooms. It’s just not there for women, who are half of the population,” she said.

“Then of course, things like childcare and healthcare. Women are the primary caregivers, whether it’s for young children or for people who are ill or near the end of their life, so that’s a burden that women carry more than men in our society.”

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Vipond said gender parity and greater education about gender parity is critical, not only for women but for all of society.

“[My daughter] will make comments like ‘I can’t do that because I’m a girl’ and it shocks me,” she said.

“It matters in what decisions end up happening and it matters in terms of what we can tell our children and what is possible. We are a better society when we are an equal society.”

Christianne Hall is a welder, and she said there is a very low female to male ratio within her union, Edmonton Ironworkers’ Local 720.

“It has about 2,500 memberships. We have 60 women,” she said.

Hall said there needs to be a push for greater gender parity when it comes to the trades.

“I’d like to see gender taken out of any work that is out there. Whether it is in the nursing field or whether it’s in constructions, that there’s just no gender [consideration]. It’s about the person who can do the job,” she said.
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Gender parity is an issue that Bev Esslinger knows all too well. The city councillor is the lone female of the group.

“I would love to see more women on council. I think it would bring different perspectives to the table,” she said.

“I also think your city council should be reflective of the community they live in. We know there’s 50 per cent women in Edmonton so it should be reflective.”

She would also like to see a greater balance between men and women in the leadership team at Edmonton City Hall. She said there is only one woman, who is the acting city manager, on the team.

“Within the city, we’re working with our administration to discuss how to encourage gender parity at all levels of the organization. What are the barriers we need to address and how do we go about addressing them?” she said.

The Women’s Advisory Voice of Edmonton provides advice to city council on women-related issues. Chairperson Jackie Foord said Edmontonians need to celebrate women but also need to keep progress in mind.

“Women have historically been left behind or not even included in so many things around employment, education and healthcare so there’s a lot of work to do,” she said.

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