New website sheds light on status of Yukon women

The Yukon Women's Directorate has launched a new website it hopes will be a one-stop shop for information about gender equality in the territory.

The Yukon Women’s Directorate has launched a new website it hopes will be a one-stop shop for information about gender equality in the territory.

The new “Indicators of Yukon Gender Equality” website has compiled statistics on the status of women in the territory, including information about economic equality, education and poverty.

But it also shines a light on some of the territory’s trailblazers, including former Yukon MP Audrey McLaughlin, wheelchair athlete Jessica Frotten and social justice advocate Judi Johnny.

Each of those women recorded stories about their work and the history of women in the territory, which are posted on the website.

“We had to fight the Caucasian point of view and say ‘We are feminists,’” said Johnny, a First Nations woman, in a recording about the early days of feminism. “We have a different culture. We have a different value system. … It was kind of exciting to see that these women could protest the government. That in itself was liberating.”

The website also includes a timeline of milestones for gender equality in the Yukon. They range from the naming of Yukon’s first indigenous woman to cabinet in 1985, when NDP MLA Margaret Commodore became minister of health and human resources, to the recognition of same-sex parents on Yukon birth certificates in 2014.

Jennifer England, director of the Women’s Directorate, said she thinks the website is one-of-a-kind in the way it presents data from different sources alongside personal stories.

“I think the opportunity for the website is to provide the information to policy-makers,” she said. “We’re providing a tool for those policy analysts and decision-makers … to be able to say ‘OK, here’s what’s going on.’”

The data are grouped into 10 categories, from employment to child care to violence and safety.

England said one of the figures that stood out to her is that the Yukon’s wage gap has narrowed dramatically.

In 2014, Yukon women earned 95.4 per cent of men’s hourly wages for the same work, compared to 84 per cent in 1997. In Canada overall, that figure was just 86 per cent in 2014.

England thinks that might be because the Yukon government is the territory’s largest employer, and the government is committed to pay equity.

Women also currently make up 32 per cent of MLAs elected to Yukon’s legislative assembly, the largest percentage in the territory’s history.

The data also show that median income of aboriginal women in the territory was 25 per cent higher than that of aboriginal men in 2010. England said it’s hard to know exactly why that is, but she has an idea.

“My hunch at this point … is that it’s linked to higher rates of post-secondary educational attainment by aboriginal women,” she said.

But in other areas, women still face significant obstacles.

In 2011, the median income of Yukon women was $37,700, compared to $45,270 for men.

Women also led almost all the single-parent families in the Yukon, and completed much more unpaid housework, child care and senior care than men. And almost 30 per cent of First Nations women in the territory experienced food insecurity between 2007 and 2010, compared to 23 per cent of First Nations men.

In 2011, Yukon’s rate of violent crime against women was also four times the national average.

Hillary Aitken of the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre said she hopes having all the statistics in one place will help with public education.

“For some people, the first step is just seeing a big number or a colourful graph,” she said. “It helps build that education…. It’s the first step on a road to change.”

The figures also show that men are still choosing education in the trades much more than women, with just 49 female apprentices out of 516 in 2014.

But Brenda Barnes, executive director of Yukon Women in Trades and Technology, said apprenticeships are only part of the picture. She said there’s still information lacking about the number of women actually working in the trades. “I don’t think this is a true indicator of where we are,” she said.

Barnes said she feels the website’s most important contribution is the individual stories, not necessarily the data.

“These are really, really important stories,” she said. “I think it’s really important to have all of these voices recorded.”

But not everyone was satisfied with the new website.

Chase Blodgett, a transgender advocate, said the website ignores the gender non-conforming community.

“I was disappointed, I was angry,” he said. “I kind of threw my hands up in the air.”

He said the website shouldn’t use the term “gender equality” if it only deals with equality of non-transgender women.

But England said the issue is a real lack of data on the gender non-conforming community.

“There is nothing available in the Yukon, and there is almost nothing available at the national level,” she said. “And we looked.”

Both she and Blodgett said they’d like to work together to improve the representation of gender diversity.

The new website can be found at

www.yukongenderequality.com.

Contact Maura Forrest at

maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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