Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to recognize this week as International Women’s Week, and Saturday March 8 as International Women’s Day.
As Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, I am proud to celebrate the progress that has been made in advancing women’s equality around the world, and here at home.
This year, Ontario’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Equality through Leadership”.
As the leaders of today we must continue to push for female equality.
Throughout history our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and mentors have fought for the right to vote, own land and in 1929 gained us recognition as “persons” under the law.
Strong women like Agnes MacPhail – the first female Member of Parliament – and the ‘Famous Five’, have stood up for equal rights, insisted on equal opportunity, and made progress toward equality for all women.
If it wasn’t for their strong leadership, I wouldn’t be here today.
It is because of them, I feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to break down barriers for the next generation.
We have come a long way in Ontario.
We now have the first female Premier in this Province’s history.
And while this is an important achievement, we must continue to advocate for women in leadership positions.
Barriers for women still exist in the corporate world.
In Canada women make up only 16 per cent of the seats on corporate boards.
This is unacceptable.
The research shows that a stronger economy and equality for women go hand in hand.
This has been proven around the world and it holds true in Ontario as well.
The 2013 Catalyst Census shows that from 2011 to 2013 female representation on Canadian public companies increased by 2 per cent.
While this is a promising sign, we know we still have a long way to go.
This past summer our government asked the Ontario Securities Commission to undertake a review and public consultation on a “comply or explain” approach to corporate governance.
We did this because there is a stigma in the corporate world that we must work hard to change.
The data shows that when it comes to return on investment companies with the most female directors outperformed those with the least by 26 per cent.
We have seen that when other countries have adopted a “comply or explain” approach there has been an increase in female corporate leadership.
As a government and as female role models, we must continue to work hard to break down barriers for the women of today and the leaders of tomorrow.
Thirty years after the creation of the Ontario Women’s Directorate, progress has been made toward full economic equality.
Today we see more women in senior leadership positions, more women in politics, and more women in non-traditional jobs.
And while we have come a long way there is still more work to do.
Unfortunately, it is still the case that women earn 72 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterpart.
We must continue to work hard to address this discrepancy.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that equality for women is progress for all, and I remain committed to that goal.
I encourage all Ontarians to participate in their community’s events during International Women’s Week, and to look for ways that they can support women’s equality and a brighter future for all Ontarians.