by Alexa Briggs
International Women’s Day is always an important day for me to reflect on how far we’ve come for women’s equality worldwide and how much further we still have to go. This year’s IWD theme is #BreakTheBias. Given that we just had a budget drop here in Alberta, this post will turn attention to some of the inherent bias on display in undervaluing the potential contributions of the nonprofit sector in the care economy, primarily composed of women, to not only our social and environmental wellbeing, but also to our economic wellbeing.
The care economy encompasses both paid and unpaid work that “includes care for children, the elderly, and the disabled, health care, education, and as well, leisure and other personal services, all of which contribute to nurturing and supporting present and future populations”.[i] We agree with our colleagues at the Ontario Nonprofit Network that this definition can be broadly understood to include the work of the nonprofit sector that is focused on the health, vibrancy and resilience of communities.[ii] Based on this definition, the nonprofit sector is arguably a core part of the care economy. Recent data shows that women, immigrant, and visible minority employees hold the highest number of jobs in the nonprofit sector; that data also shows that men are paid more in average annual salaries and hourly wages than women.[iii]
There is a longstanding history of undervaluing the care economy as “women’s work”, work that is often either underpaid or unpaid and undervalued as an economic driver. Valuing the care economy as less than, builds on discriminatory practices and beliefs that have devalued the work of women or rendered it invisible, and that continues to hinder society’s full economic potential. For example, a recent report found that if women were making as much as men in comparable jobs, Canada could see an $18 billion increase in household income. [iv]
Alberta’s recent budget continues to reflect Alberta’s recovery plan, originally released in 2020, which emphasizes capital investments in infrastructure and was developed by an Economic Recovery Council that lacked equitable gender composition.[v] Not only are there no new major investments in the nonprofit sector, which would support the care economy, but there is also bias in the prioritization of capital investments in infrastructure with no supporting investments in social infrastructure. For example, there are two longstanding grants to support nonprofits: one for capital investments to support buildings and other infrastructure that is seeing a 108% increase in its budget, and one to support projects, operations, and events that is seeing a 44% decrease in its budget. The obvious implication here being that, while the capital investments in infrastructure in the nonprofit sector is great for trades and construction, without corresponding investments to support the people who will occupy those buildings the priority continues to be on supports for industries other than the nonprofit sector. Perhaps the greatest sign we have that the value of women in Alberta’s recovery plan is lacking is the continuing decrease in the Status of Women budget, which will be reduced this year by 4%.
Beyond the lack of investment, there is little acknowledgement of the value of the nonprofit sector, and our predominantly women workforce, as a driver in economic recovery. Alberta, with this bias in budgeting that undervalues women’s work, comes lack of investment and recognition, and it means we are letting a huge economic opportunity pass us by.
About the author: Alexa Briggs
Alexa has a strong professional background as a researcher and writer, combined with extensive experience working for nonprofit organizations in managerial and leadership experience positions. Her work in policy analysis and research was enhanced at Vibrant Communities Calgary, where she served as Associate Director of Strategy and Research. Alexa holds a B.A. in Sociology with High Honours and an Interdisciplinary M.A, both from the University of Saskatchewan. Her professional experience includes numerous publications and conference presentations as well as service on nonprofit Boards. Alexa currently works as the Director, Policy & Research of the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations, a charitable organization that promotes and strengthens the nonprofit sector by developing and sharing resources and knowledge, building connections, leading collaborative work, and giving voice to critical issues affecting the sector.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this post belong solely to the author and do not represent those of The Nonprofit Vote or its Partner Organizations. Interested in publishing a guest post on our blog? Connect with us today at [email protected].