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Canada's Most Sexist Professions

Mar 28, 2014 at 8:47 AM Chime in now

Canada's Most Sexist Professions


Last week in headlines, Alison Redford stepped down as Alberta's first female premier. Julie Ann Horvath made headlines for quitting GitHub, a gender-biased workplace. It was not a great week for women in the workforce. While we continue to make great strides in penetrating workplaces traditionally dominated by men, there are some professions that continue to work like a boys’ club. In our opinions, here are some of the worst. 
It's ironic that after all those years relagated to kitchens, women continue to struggle for status as respected chefs. This fall, a Time Magazine feature highlighted the 13 Gods of Food. Four of them were women, none of whom were chefs. The last seven Outstanding Chef awards from the James Beard Foundation have gone to men. It's tempting to believe that people are comfortable with women making and planning meals, as long as they're not ordering around a team of sous-chefs in a Michelin-starred resto.
Technology has long been a male-dominant field. There are some fabulous organizations trying to get more women to represent (such as the stellar Canadian organization Ladies Learning Code),  but even when qualified female developers are brought onto teams, the dynamic can prove toxic. Julie Ann Horvath's (who publicly left GitHub last week) account on TechCrunch has spotlighted gender-based harassment in her field. But any woman (or man) who's weighed in on message boards, opined on gamer culture, or worked in an IT department can tell you: internet culture doesn't have a great track record at respecting women.
Watching this doc on sexism at Harvard Law School you'll wonder in which century the ivy league institution operates. Sexism for Canadian women practicing law has been the subject of lawsuits, and damning reports. In Canada, there's been a 10 per cent rise in complaints by female lawyers  in the past decade, more than half featuring gender discriminiation as a factor. 
Executives and Corporate Boards
Only 3 per cent of the top-earning CEOs in Canada are women. According to Governance Gateway blog there are 35 Canadian boards with no women on them. That's quite a sausage party!
Hollywood has a well-known double standard when it comes to  both actors as they age or who don't conform to the beauty norm. How does zaftig Jonah Hill get all these juicy roles while Jennifer Lawrence gets called fat? How is it that an aging actor like Jeff Bridges gets magazine covers and an Oscar(tm) for his "comeback" roles, but we can't remember the last time an older actress got treated to the same fawning career resurrection? Lena Dunham delivered a must-read keynote on how much women get typecast for their breakout role: "It's a knock on a world where women are typecast and men can play villains, Lotharios and nerds in one calendar year and something has to change and I'm trying," said Dunham. We could write a whole other section on directors. We love you Katherine Bigelow, but we're sure you'll agree: female directors are still missing in action, especially when it comes to big-budget films.
We NEED smart women to represent us, but the stats are pretty dire. As of 2010, Canada ranks 50th for women's participation in politics. Women only make up 23 per cent of the seats in municipal, provincial and federal politics. This week, Alison Redford stepped down as Alberta's premier after becoming the province's first woman in that office. In echoes of our Ban Bossy debate, people critiqued her as a "bully" or "not a nice lady." Would they use similar language for an assertive male politician?  And of course, there's the endless and minimizing debate over HiIlary Clinton's pantsuits and scrutiny of her appearance. It's hard out there for a female politician!

We'd love to see more women in construction and in trades. There are some programs and agencies trying to promote this in Canada. And it's cliché, but we can't help but wonder how more women on construction sites would change the wolf-whistle dynamic.
You can't touch on women studying engineering courses without thinking about the anti-feminist gunman who murdered 14 women at École Polytechnique. It was an act that makes current charges of sexism within engineering departments especially resonant. This January, McMaster University  suspended an engineering student group over a songbook containing what the university calls “sexist, violent and degrading material.”   There are agencies and scholarships trying to get more women to enrol in engineering programs, but as of 2009, only 17 per cent of Canadian Engineering students were women and a shocking 7 per cent of licenced engineers in Canada are female (source). But there is some hopeful news, such as this appointment of women to engineering regulatory bodies.

Will it be another four years before we gather around our TV sets to watch the epic wins of our women's hockey team? Meanwhile, every Hockey Night in Canada park ourselves in front of screens to to watch the boys on ice. When women do get scheduled on TV, it's often more visually appealing sports such as women's tennis, and commentary often focusses on their dating lives or upping their sex appeal through skimpy uniforms.

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