Status of Women Canada (SWC) is a federal agency, established thirty years ago, that promotes gender equality in Canada and the full participation of women in the economic, social, cultural and political life of the country. SWC reports to the Minister of State (Status of Women). Its mandate includes a gender-based analysis of legislation, policies and programmes throughout the federal government including the Heritage Portfolio. SWC operates a Policy Research Fund that supports gender-based research and acts as a knowledge broker on gender equality, a centre of expertise and a catalyst for network building. The following priority areas have been identified by SWC for action:
- enhancing women’s participation in Canada’s cultural development and heritage;
- commemorating women in Canadian history;
- promoting women in heritage programme development;
- fostering women’s participation in the arts;
- enhancing women’s participation in cultural industries and broadcasting;
- improving the status of women in sport in Canada;
- helping to reduce employment barriers and other obstacles facing first-generation Canadians and members of ethno-cultural and visible minorities, particularly women, within the artistic and performing arts world;
- helping Aboriginal women to maintain their cultural distinctiveness and to address their cultural identity and other issues;
- advancing women’s contributions to Canadian identity; and
- taking the needs of women in official-language communities into account in federal legislation, policies and programmes (Plan for Gender Equality, 1995-2000).
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) developed its first policy on equitable and realistic gender portrayal in on-air programmes and advertising in 1992. While there is substantial industry self-regulation with regards to gender, all private broadcasters in Canada must adhere to the Sex Role Portrayal Code for Television and Radio Programming administered by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.
To date, there has been no comprehensive scorecard on the progress of achieving gender equality throughout the entire cultural sector. However, the 2001 Census data indicate that women made up 54% of the 130 695 artists representing nine occupations in Canada. Women were significantly more numerous than men among dancers (85%), artisans and craft persons (62%) and slightly more numerous than men as musicians and singers (56%), writers (54%) and painters, sculptors and other visual artists (54%). Men, on the other hand, were almost twice as numerous as women as conductors, composers and arrangers (68%), producers, directors, choreographers and related occupations (61%) and actors (55%). Men continue to be over-represented in the highest-paying occupations while women continue to be over-represented in the lowest-paying occupations in the cultural sector. (Hill Strategies: A Statistical Profile of Artists in Canada 2004). There has been continued growth in the proportion of employment by women in artistic, literary and recreational occupations in Canada from 50.4% in 1987 to 53.5% in 2002. There is wider awareness of both progress and gaps in the effort to ensure equality of women. For example, in 2005: only one in five Members of Parliament was a woman; the employment income gap between male and female university graduates who work full time has widened; women working full time still earn only 71 cents for every dollar that men make; there are over six times as many female victims of sexual assault as male victims; and women are still more likely than males to live in poverty, especially Aboriginal and female lone parents. The issue of unpaid work at home remains controversial.
Other initiatives of SWC include research on the gender dimensions of Canada’s social capital and Canada’s key role in the Beijing +10 Platform for Action (1995 and 2005) that represented a critical opportunity for exchange among international representatives on the issue of how to achieve results in gender equality. The terms and conditions of the Women’s Programme were renewed for the period September 2006 to September 2011. The objective of the Programme is to achieve the full participation of women in the economic, social and cultural life of Canada through the implementation of strategies to advance gender equality and gender-based-analysis (GBA). Pursuant to an evaluation of the Programme in 2006, a major review of the structure, information system, governance and management effectiveness was conducted in 2007. Recent SWC initiatives include: the Federal / Provincial / Territorial Ministers Responsible for the Status of Women Policy Forum on Aboriginal Women and Violence (March 2006) held in Ottawa to discuss the need to raise awareness, better access to Programme support, and the need to integrate Aboriginal values, traditions and rights in policies, programmes, research and legislation; the government commemoration, on 6 December, of Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women; government Responses to several Reports of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women in 2005-06 on gender-based analysis, funding, pay equity and parental benefits for self-employed people. In November 2007, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages announced a call for proposals for funding affecting Aboriginal women under the Women’s Community Fund which also contains initiatives on family violence and women’s self-government participation. The Women’s Partnership Fund provides support to collaborative projects involving other levels of government and NGOs.