Celebrating International Women’s Day in 2021

Picture of a woman smiling

March 8, 2021

For International Women’s Day, we asked female leaders at the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada to share their thoughts on the significance of this day and the importance of this celebration in 2021. Here is what they had to say.

Equal opportunities? Why not!

By Judith Robertson, Commissioner

Photo of Judith Robertson, Commissioner of The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

“I had my 25-year-old daughter search the trunk where I keep all my mementos from high school and university (it’s in Toronto, where I can’t go right now). She found these stickers from the International Women’s Year in 1975. I would have been 16 years old. The fact that I kept these stickers, and knew where they were 45 years later, shows how important this event was to me.

I remember how radical the concept of equal opportunities for women was at that time  and how angry I was at the injustice and indifference to my fundamental human rights.

While there have been a lot of important changes between my generation and my daughters’, we must recognize the barriers that still exist to equal opportunities for women. The COVID-19 experience has strongly revealed these underlying inequities in the disproportionate impact of income loss and safety net gaps (sick leave, child and elder care) on women.

That is why I think it is as important as it ever was to mark March 8 and to use it as a catalyst for positive action. The original slogan 'Why not!' is still relevant. It puts the onus in the right place. It’s not for the under-represented or marginalized groups to make the case for inclusion. It’s for all of us to answer this fundamental question: if our society does not reflect equal opportunity for all – why not?”

Today is a day we persist

By Dr. Supriya Syal, Deputy Commissioner of Research, Policy and Education

Picture of Supriya Syal, Deputy Commissioner of Research, Policy and Education

“I am a woman. I am queer. The colour of my skin is brown. I am an immigrant. I am a scientist. I am one half of a biracial marriage to another woman. I am mother to a biracial child.

But I’ll be damned if I let what sets me apart keep me from living my life, or persisting in the fight for women’s rights to an equal society. Some days, I persist by trying to set up federal collaborations to advance women’s financial inclusion in Canada. Other days, I persist by just showing up.

To my sisters and co-persisters I’d like to say, there will come a time when International Women’s Day will merely be a day to celebrate women, and not an annual reminder of how unequal women’s reward for more-than-equal work remains.

But today is not that day. Today, in the pandemic-linked economic crisis that has appropriately been dubbed a 'she-cession,' women’s participation in the labour force has fallen from historic highs in 2019 to the lowest in almost 35 years. More women are suffering. More women are dead. We stand to lose so many of the gains women’s movements have made over the last 70 years.

Today is a day we persist. We persist by building up other women. We persist by holding ourselves and our organizations accountable to women. We persist by electing women. We persist by showing up.”

A call to action

By Julie Neveu, Chief Human Resources Officer

Picture of Julie Neveu, Chier Human Resources Officer at FCAC

“They say our first lessons about money come from our parents. Growing up, one of the greatest lessons I learned was the importance of financial independence, particularly for women. I come from a loving family, just not a wealthy one – my parents worked hard to make ends meet. Even as a young child, I saw how hard things were and I wanted a different future for me and my family. 

My cash register was my favourite toy, and I wanted to be a banker because in my mind, they had all the money. As I grew up, my career aspirations changed, but my desire for financial independence stuck with me. I am proud of how hard I’ve worked, what I’ve achieved and having a true partner in every sense. Together, we’re helping our kids achieve their dreams and are in a position to help take care of my mom. 

One of the reasons I joined the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada was our mandate and in particular our commitment to enhancing the financial literacy of Canadians. The pandemic has disproportionately impacted women and other marginalized and vulnerable populations, threatening their financial stability and ability to provide for themselves and their families.

This is a call to action for employers. We must leverage our policies, practices, and flexibilities to enable women to continue contributing at work, while balancing their personal responsibilities and protecting their mental health. Inclusion and equality have never been more important, and we can only make them real with the decisions and actions we take every day. We’re in this together!”

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