Many of us began January with a shiny set of New Year's resolutions: a fresh page for a fresh year. By now, however, chances are some of those promises have fallen on the backburner. Part of the reason is that things tend to get in the way of our good intentions.
It’s hard to cut down on caffeine when there’s a coffee shop on every corner, or to eat healthier when your partner keeps bringing home junk food, or to spend more time with your friends when you’re swamped at work.
For women who are struggling to make ends meet on a low income—especially for women raising children on their own—their number one goal is often: “Find a good job.” Unfortunately, when it comes to economic equality, women face several unique hurdles.
Women do more unpaid work, labour market policies have not kept pace with social change, and the gender wage gap has not gone away. Some groups of women face extreme levels of poverty, including women who have physical or mental disabilities, those from Aboriginal or racialized communities, and single mothers.
Each day, women in Canada spend about 2.5 hours more than men doing unpaid work, including housework, child care, and cooking. Given the lack of affordable childcare and the absence of workplace policies like flex-time and caregiver leave, many women find they have no choice but to work part-time or to take seasonal or contract jobs, many of which are low-paid and offer no benefits or job security. According to Statistics Canada, 70% of part-time workers are women and 60% of those who earn minimum wage are women.
Although the wage gap has narrowed over the last two decades, it’s still a reality. In 2011, the average woman earned 67 cents for every dollar earned by the average man. Part of this difference is explained by the number of women who work part-time, but the wage gap persists even when women work full-time and have the same experience and education as their male colleagues.
Setting a goal to start anew and then following through takes courage and perseverance. It requires making small changes, every day. We rarely get there without help from others.
Given the barriers they face, women who live on low incomes often need a temporary hand-up to reach their goals. The Canadian Women’s Foundation funds 17 programs across Canada that help women to learn a skilled trade, launch a small business, or get valuable job experience in a social-purpose enterprise. The women also benefit from the wisdom and guidance of mentors, business coaches, and other women in the program, who are just as determined as them to move out of poverty.
It’s hard to think of a more pressing goal than “properly feed and clothe my kids.” As the year unfolds, let’s all resolve to help more women make their goals a reality.
Learn more about our approach to helping women move out of poverty.