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OHRC statement to mark International Women’s Day: from surviving to thriving

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March 8, 2022

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Every day is International Women’s Day, but today, at the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), we pause to honour the achievements women have made towards gender equality in the workplace and towards a more equitable society.

Today we celebrate how far we have come, but we know that more and greater change is possible – and needed. For example, gender equity has not yet been achieved in the boardroom, in C-suites and in compensation. According to the Osler report on 2021 Diversity Disclosure Practices – Diversity and leadership at Canadian public companies, while women are being recruited onto company boards at a steady pace, women are making very little progress at the executive officer level. For Indigenous women, Black women, women from other racialized groups and women with disabilities, the situation is even more disappointing.

Women have contributed significantly to all aspects of our social and economic society, including in science, technology, engineering and math. While some of us may never have our names etched into our history books, all of us are worthy of recognition. We are mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. We are neighbours and colleagues. We are leaders making an impact internationally and in our local communities – such is the case for the remarkable Black women the OHRC featured on our social media channels during Black History Month.

Women deserve a gender-equal world, free from bias, stereotypes and discrimination. And we should lift as we climb up this precipitous and arduous mountain – or as we aim to shatter the glass ceiling. In doing so, we are creating a critical mass. And that, too, is our duty.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated disparities for women, and especially women in the work force. It has negatively affected their health, social and economic well-being, resulting in resilience fatigue and a “she-cession” that is still prevalent, especially among women in the 55+ age-bracket. Among the women bearing the fiercest brunt of the pandemic are women with intersecting Code-protected identities, such as our Black, other racialized, Indigenous and LGBTQ2S+ sisters. The disproportionate impact these women experience is well-documented, including in the OHRC’s Policy statement on human rights in COVID-19 recovery planning.

On International Women’s Day, let us keep women, and other vulnerable groups, at the forefront of our collective consciousness. Anything short of equipping them with the tools they need to not just survive, but thrive, would be an abdication of our collective responsibility.

Patricia DeGuire
Chief Commissioner