The celebration of International Women’s Day at UFV highlights the progress that women have made over the last hundred years. It is perhaps surprising to us now that women at one point were not even considered “persons” under the law, a detail which deprived them of the right to vote. Along with the various female-led movements such as suffrage, women’s liberation, and first and second wave feminism, one of the major catalysts for the advancement of women in the work place was the Second World War.
With many of the men fighting in Europe and Asia, North American women had to take on the factory jobs that were previously thought of as “too tough” for them. By proving themselves in the workplace, women were able to shed the labels of being too delicate or weak for physical labour. This enabled them to take their place in the work force in ever greater numbers throughout the following decades.
Currently there is another workforce gender shift taking place. The amount of manufacturing and labour jobs typically done by men has been reduced by outsourcing and economic upheaval since the 1970’s. This trend – added to the fact that many of the white collar jobs lost during the most recent economic downturn were also done by men – has left many men scrambling for work.
While in the past it was claimed that women were too weak for the industrial economy, it has currently been argued that men are too competitive and aggressive for the collaborative and communication -based information economy.
It is up to men to shed these labels by proving themselves in the workplace, possibly even in jobs previously reserved for women. The playing field has changed dramatically since the days when an unskilled labour job would support an entire family. Why complain about men’s changing role in society? Women were able to prove themselves and adapt their roles to an ever changing world. As men, so can we.