March 8 is the day each year when we recognize the many roles women play in our society and take note of how much work still needs to be done to create a more equitable world. In the House of Commons, I am very aware that women make up less than 30 per cent of the Members of Parliament representing our country. Yet this is the highest it has ever been in Canada.
It was only in 1921 that some women were granted the right to vote in Canada. I say some because it wasn’t until the late 1940s certain women of colour were able to vote provincially and federally, and it was not until 1960 that Indigenous women gained that right.
In 1921, Agnes Macphail became the first woman elected to Parliament. Almost 100 years later we are still a long ways off from equal representation in the House of Commons.
Why is that? On average, women must be asked 11 times to run for office before they consider it, while men only have to be asked once or twice. It is important that we all consider this and encourage more women and celebrate those who do put their names forward for elected office at any level.
Too often, what is normalized becomes invisible. There are many barriers for women to advancing their career and pursuing leadership roles. I stayed home with my children for the first seven years of their lives. I loved it, and I am grateful that choice was available to our family. However, I am saddened by how many women tell me they are forced to stay home with children because child care is too expensive and their family simply cannot afford it.
As the cost of living increases and wages fail to keep up, too many women are being forced to make sacrifices and decisions that they should not have to make.
This year, let us recognize our shared history as women. Let us uplift and empower one another, celebrate our successes and continue to work towards equality within family, the work force, leadership and elected office.
Happy International Women’s Day!
Rachel Blaney is the MP for North Island-Powell River.