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This year the #MeToo, #TimesUp and the Women's March movements have created an unprecedented level of activism from women of all backgrounds. While the #MeToo was started ten years ago by Tarana Burke, a black activist as a means of raising awareness of sexual harassment of women in black communities, it was not until Hollywood’s call for action that the issue was pushed to the forefront. The widespread and systemic nature of the incidents of sexual harassment and assault of women, pay inequity particularly within circles of power is astounding and difficult to accept.


Men and women alike have all asked the question, how could this happen in modern time? After all, the women’s movement and feminists have been tirelessly fighting for over 100 years for the advancement of all women. Despite popular belief that the modern-day woman is economically advanced, politically mobilised and every bit an equal to her male counterparts, economic disparities between men and women continue to exist to this day.


Based on a study conducted in 2015, Statistics Canada documented that 82% of women in Canada have joined the work force and are in some form of employment. However, in Ontario, the wage gap between men and women sits at 30% and has staggered at the same level for many years. More women are also engaged in part-time employment and tend to be susceptible to career disruptions due to childcare, family responsibilities or illness.If balancing employment and the household were the problem, one would assume that women would be more likely to want to be self-employed with the opportunity and flexibility to self-regulate. The data suggests otherwise, only 38.8% women either own or operate their own businesses.


Women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions. While the public sector has achieved some strides with the adoption of mandatory federal and provincial equal opportunities regulations. The private sector is extremely lagging in the promotion of women to leadership positions. Only 25.6% of senior management positions in the private sector are held by women.


The economic disparity is even more amplified when it comes to women of visible minority groups and immigrant women. These women are also less likely to report incidents of harassment and discrimination.


The global fight for equal pay and better working and economic conditions began in 1909 and has been a recurring cause for the women’s movement with no end in sight. The deeply misogynistic systems in society and the workplace will have to be dismantled to allow women to achieve their full potential. Economic empowerment of women is crucial to break down the incidents of domestic violence, sexual assaults and to bring true parity in society. On this international women's day, Tamil Women Rising urges women and men to continue to #pressforprogress. Together, we can work towards a fairer society for all genders.


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