Lived Experience of Gendered Poverty

I hear a lot of talk in Canada that women have achieved equality. Heck, even our Supreme Anointed Leader Prime Minister says so. Oh, really?

Let’s talk about starting points and about getting ahead in life. Let’s talk about whether or not being born a girl in Canada impacts how far you can get from that starting point. I can’t speak for all women in this country and all the communities they represent, so let me talk about me and mine.

I grew up as a member of one of the three marginalized groups in the province of Nova Scotia. Linguistically, culturally and geographically we were set apart. Think of it this way: if life is a road race and communities are the runners, I and other members of my community would be starting near the very back of the pack. As a female member of that community, I was at the back of the back of the pack.

I may not have had money or a penis, but I did have brains. I went away to university and became a teacher (no time/money to linger and explore what may have actually interested me) and accumulated huge debt. But hey, university education gives you a huge edge, right? In theory.

In practice, repaying huge accumulated debt claws back at said advantage pretty significantly. Not to mention winding up in the wrong career because you had to complete your studies in as timely and cheaply a manner as possible. Repaying that debt impacted my timing in career shift, in starting a family, in buying a first home.

Eventually I did start that family, once the debt was paid off. Smart, eh? Finally, we’re getting somewhere.

Meh.

Staying at/returning to my home community was not a viable option. Employment opportunities are slim to nil, and most often seasonal. So my husband and I live far from home and from family supports.

One career change later, I’m well behind the pack. Earning power is compromised. My industry counterparts have five years on me and likely had less debt to begin with.

I fall behind.

Baby number one = one-year *maternity leave. One year of earning power gone. One year of work experience gone.

I fall behind.

Another kid and another maternity leave. Career and earning power are further compromised.

I fall behind.

Two wonderful kiddies. Kiddies get sick (some kiddies get really sick, but that’s another blog post). There are no grand-parents or aunties and uncles nearby to look after the kids when they can’t go to school or daycare.

Because I live far from home and family. Because I had to leave. Because I started from behind.

I miss work. My dependability as an employee is questioned. My career suffers.

I fall behind.

Meanwhile, father unit has not taken parental leave and his career has flourished. I earn about 60 cents for every dollar he earns despite having a higher level of education than he has. Given his salary, his job is more or less accepted as being more important than mine and sacrifices are made in keeping with that. All else being equal, I will be the one to take time off for kiddies’ medical appointments, parent-teacher interviews and other progeny-related obligations.

I fall behind.

So much for equality.

*I can hear the howls of protests now- “there’s legislated full-year parental leave AND fathers (in the case of heterosexual partnerships) have the option of taking leave now, too. The women’s movement fought for those things and won.” Indeed, it did. But those gains merely begin to level the playing field. And don’t even get me started about what parents are paid while on leave depending on whether they’re “topped up” or not

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