Clark: Still work to do breaking through the glass ceiling

When I’m meeting with male dignitaries, they will sometimes look across the table at the men who work for me, as if they’re in charge.

Watching U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump with increasing astonishment, a lot of questions come to mind.

How could this happen; how far will it go; but also, could you imagine a woman being as successful as he is right now, saying the awful things he says?

Trump is an extreme example, so consider Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

Google both their names with the word “ambitious,” and compare the results.

For Sanders, “ambitious ideas” and similar results come up. For Clinton, it’s “ruthless” or “naked” ambition.

Whatever you think of them as candidates, this is revealing. For many women, this bias isn’t new.

For example, when I’m meeting with a group of male dignitaries, they will sometimes instinctively look across the table at the men who work for me, as if they’re in charge.

I see it in the Legislature too; the Opposition will dismiss me as a cheerleader. The Opposition’s job is to oppose, but these simply aren’t criticisms they would make of a man.

I can deal with it, but it’s not really about me. It’s about the thousands of women still bumping up against a glass ceiling, who don’t have the advantage of already being in charge. It’s about a subtle discrimination and gender bias that still exists in a lot of workplaces.

Last weekend, I earned the distinction of becoming Canada’s longest-serving female premier.

It’s nice, but in a country that produced WAC Bennett, Joey Smallwood, and a 75-year Conservative dynasty in Alberta, it’s surprising that no other woman has made it past five years and two days as a premier.

To make a world where women never feel intimidated, underestimate, or afraid to speak up and have their ideas heard, we need to work together.

Here’s what I’m doing in government: Almost 40 per cent of my cabinet are women. The Speaker of the Legislature, the Lieutenant-Governor, my party’s caucus chair, my deputy chief of staff, and top bureaucrat are all women.

More than 40 per cent of our 2,000 board appointments and 48 per cent of my senior public servants are women.

I think it’s important to note we achieved this without quotas. Each and every one of these women were chosen because they were the best person for the job.

We need to grow the field of women leaders across the board, not just in government and politics.

That’s why we have focused on helping more women, especially single mothers, join the middle class.

We started the Single Parent Employment Initiative that pays for tuition, transportation and child care when you’re training for a new career, and keeps the cheques coming until you start work.

We also started the Women in Trades Training Program to assist and encourage women into leadership roles and non-traditional career paths.

 

Since 2008, more than 3,000 women have received their start in a new career through this program—and they’re about to have more company. Last week, we invested a further $1.8 million in Women in Trades Training.

We have more to do, and we have to keep working on changing people’s attitudes.

When men and women contribute together equally, the world is a better—and more prosperous—place.

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