Canadians making strides toward gender equality

Growing up in a household where Jeff Perera’s father was abusive towards his mother had an impact on his perception of gender identification.

“I had this very warped idea from him that this is my ultimate role model and you either rebel against it or repeat these cycles,” Perera said. “It was an opening for me to kind of explore these issues.”

Today Jeff Perera is the community and youth engagement manager for the White Ribbon campaign. His organization delivers talks and facilitates workshops to engage men about the effects of gender inequality and violence against women. This week, the campaign also acknowledged International Women’s Day (IWD).

“Gender is such a ruling metaphor and controlling issue that affects us and we start to realize how much of an everyday reality it is,” Perera said.

Since the United Nations officially designated IWD, on March 8, 1977, Canada has acknowledged the progression of change in gender equality. Connie Guberman is a senior lecturer in women’s and gender studies at the University of Toronto.

“Women now make up the undergraduate population (in universities), by almost 60 per cent. Forty-five years ago that was not the case,” she said. “Even 40 years ago in 1972, women were not admitted to some of the buildings that the University of Toronto, such as Hart House.”

Guberman is also the co-editor of the first book in Canada on Canadian feminism called ‘Still Ain’t Satisfied.’ According to Guberman, female students take a longer time to pay off debt and are not in the same number of leadership positions and corporate boardrooms as men.

“(Women are) not present in the graduate units in such proportion, particularly in the domains that are still male dominated, like engineering, computer science and math. Despite our degrees, we still earn less then a man, (approximately) 70 cents per dollar,” Guberman said.

Perera added that Canadians still need to embrace gender equality and identification.

In 2011, the White Ribbon campaign conducted a survey. It found that 77 per cent of men felt it was very important to speak out against violence against women. However, Perera said that people who are aware of the issue are not active about changing it.

“Whether you’re an engineering student or you want to make it in the film industry, if you identify as a women, you have many more barriers you have to face and it’s a thing we don’t talk about and just accept,” Perera said.