Voices of Change is concerned with bringing the stories of influential women to light, making these stories available and accessible to the community and making sure that women’s voices and experiences are heard. The London Women’s History Group emerged as a result of the lack of public records and acknowledgement concerning local women’s history, and while great strides have been made in uncovering and preserving the history of London women, this is also indicative of the marginalization women face in our society. It is important to see the struggles of past women as relevant in our society, and to commemorate while incorporating their work and the changes they made into our current movements and lives.
When we talk about women’s rights, there is a tendency to treat it as something of the past – we praise the women who helped to make our lives better in the present and move on. A lot of the time, it’s easy for us to see our lives as women free form the obvious obstacles that our predecessors faced – because of their hard work, we can vote, take action in politics, and have jobs outside of the home. And certainly, while it is important to acknowledge the benefits we have now, it is even more important to continue to push the limits that women have forced on. By understanding the struggles and changes that second wave feminists went through, we can continue to better the lives of women in our society and around the world.
Women are now able to pursue whatever jobs we want, and receive education and training for careers. However, we still face many obstacles in the workplace. Women still only earn 72 cents to every $1.00 earned by men in Ontario, even after the Pay Equity Act was passed in 1987. Women are still rarely in senior management position, and the numbers have not increased over the past two decades, and women continue to comprise a low percentage of high ranking CEOs, while men remain two to three times more likely to become senior managers. This is indicative of the continued perception that women have achieved equality, when the reality is very different, and it remains clear that we must continue to push those boundaries. While women are now encouraged to be career oriented, there are still many barriers preventing women from achieving high positions in the workplace, and in many cases there is still the perception that women should remain at home, or else choose either a career or staying in the home.
One of the most significant changes that is associated with past feminist movements is winning the right to vote. Canadian women won the right to vote federally for the first time in 1919, but it was still restricted to a very limited group of women, and they were not considered persons under law until 1929. Women throughout history have continued to push the barriers put against women entering politics, with good results. Now there are a number of women in politics, but we have still yet to have a long-term female Prime Minister, and women still only make up 22.1% of federal Parliament in Canada. Pakistan, Mexico, and several countries in Europe and Africa have all had female leaders, leaving Canada far behind.
It is important to continue to push the boundaries in our own country and to look at the media in relation to women in government – while men continue to be discussed only on the basis of their merits and political ideas, women are under constant attack for their appearance and personal lives, more so than any male candidates are. These issues are only heighted with issues of race and sexuality, and it is important for us to critically examine the ways women are perceived in politics through the media. We must ask ourselves questions about how women are viewed and treated in society and work to make a difference in our community.