Celebrating International Women’s Day

The Jasper Employment and Education Centre marked International Women’s Day on March 8 with a special event labeled Change, Transformation and Celebration.

“The premise is always that we're celebrating women's achievements and milestones, and the many struggles that have been won to achieve equality for women in the workplace, in political life, in pay equity, in human rights... in all those areas,” said Ginette Marcoux, the centre’s executive director.

“We gather to celebrate those things and to celebrate women while also doing a bit of a call to action, recognizing that women still are not on the same playing field in many areas of her life.”

While the day is celebrated every year, this event has been on hiatus for a decade. It was a welcomed return and a timely one, too, as the last few years have been especially difficult for women, Marcoux explained.

“During the pandemic, it was women who lost their jobs. It was women who had to stay home for childcare. There was no childcare,” she said.

While there have been many advances and successes to establish gender equality over the years, the challenges are still there and they are still great. Marcoux said that the “motherhood penalty” – women not having the same opportunities to advance in their careers as men just because they bear children – is just one example of the many forms of discrimination in the workplace.

“There's still a long ways to go. We’re not there.”

The event themed “Embrace Equity” began with a trade show (featuring businesses and organizations run by women entrepreneurs and leaders). That was followed by a dinner and a presentation by special guest Donnelly Hart of the Wisehart Foundation. Hart shared her story of creating a vocational school in Guatemala to empower women and girls through skills development programs.

During her talk, Hart mused on the word “equity” and how it often gets confused with “equality.”

“Equality acknowledges that all people have access to the same advantages and opportunities. Equity acknowledges that individuals have varying degrees of access to resources and opportunities, and seeks to distribute resources accordingly to achieve equal results,” Hart said.

Marcoux said that the Jasper Employment and Education Centre serves the general public, but in its practice, it serves many women with the objectives of achieving both equality and equity.

“Some of the ways that we support women is we have training dollars to help them retrain and upskill in order to support them as far as getting into better jobs. Through our career counseling and our skills development, there's opportunities for women to be able to gain the skills they need to move into better paying jobs. We're definitely big fans of that,” she said.

The crowd of more than 50 women in attendance seemed to be big fans of that as well.

Marcoux said that there needs to be a greater recognition of the service of women.

“The community of Jasper is what it is because it's been built off the shoulders of these wonderful women that were at our event. Our community would not be the caring, compassionate, embracing community that it is without women.”

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh