The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Mariane Gravelle

Advancing gender equality in the workplace

November 4 2016 4 November 2016

Wednesday evening, capping an unseasonably warm Fall day in Ottawa, was an event hosted by the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL) to formally launch their new bilingual, free, web-based Feminist Law Reform 101 course. The evening provided its many attendees with the opportunity to connect with like-minded people while offering them a look at this terrific new resource.  

In attendance at the event were newly-appointed Senator Kim Pate, Shirley E. Greenberg – who attended law school in the 1970s and has long been a trailblazer for the Women’s Rights movement – and The Honourable Patti Hajdu, Federal Minister of Status of Women. Both Greenberg and Hajdu addressed the crowd and recounted their – very inspiring – experiences of working in predominantly masculine fields. While Greenberg light-heartedly shared her hope that there were budding “rich women” present in the crowd who could, one day, finance Women’s Rights initiatives, Hajdu cautioned the audience that the fight for equality wasn’t yet over. She told of a few instances in which she and her female colleagues on the Hill experienced some differential treatment that was likely due to their gender. Though she vehemently assured the audience that her lived experiences did not stem from a place of unkindness, she did use those examples to highlight society’s underlying gender inequalities.

Despite great strides in advancing gender equality in society (see, for example, our gender-balanced federal cabinet of ministers), we are still facing issues of discrimination and harassment. So much so, in fact, that the Canadian Bar Association adopted a resolution in February 2015 addressing the issue of sexual harassment in Canadian workplaces following numerous media reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault in Canadian institutions in the public and private sectors. Though it is important to note that women are not the only victims of sexual harassment, they do make up the larger portion of those affected by it.

It is disheartening to know that there remains a need for these kinds of resolutions in 2016, but it is nonetheless encouraging to witness the efforts of groups fighting for gender equality and for the respect of all, despite their gender or sexual orientation.

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