"Alberta's women continue to suffer inequality, especially in the workplace," says Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour, which represents 140,000 workers.
"This unfairness is felt at all levels of society. On average, Alberta women earn 72 cents for every dollar a man earns. However, Alberta women with university degrees earn only 67 per cent of the wages earned by men with similar degrees. Women managers in Alberta earn 86 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn," says Furlong.
"Meanwhile, those who are most vulnerable also suffer. While most Albertans saw their incomes rise between 1989 and 2008, families headed by female lone parents have seen a drop in incomes, leaving the province with the highest lone-parent poverty rate in Canada - 24 per cent here compared with 16 per cent for Canada as a whole," she says.
A total of 27 union leaders today lobbied more than a dozen MLAs from the government - including three cabinet ministers - and from opposition parties and called for the province to name a minister responsible for the Status of Women.
"The Alberta government is lagging other provinces in acting to address gender inequality. Naming a minister responsible for the Status of Women will help ensure that Alberta women don't fall any further behind. It will provide much-needed focus on an issue important to all Albertans."
Within Canada, Alberta is the only jurisdiction that does not give women an institutional voice. Across the country, there are official advisory councils to government on the status of women, women's secretariats that form part of larger government ministries and, in select jurisdictions, entire ministerial portfolios dedicated to the status of women.
"Women's voices must be heard if this unfair treatment to be ended. All other jurisdictions in Canada give women an official avenue to raise their concerns with government. A Minister for the Status of Women would be able to analyze what happens in other regions to find which policies best contribute to women's equality," says Furlong.
"Alberta used to be at the forefront of the fight for equality, led by the Famous Five and their campaign to have women declared ‘persons' under the law. It is time for Alberta to take back that leadership role," she says.
Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer, Alberta Federation of Labour @ 780-720-8945 (cell)