On March 8, the world celebrates International Women’s Day. A day for us all to reflect, understand, and appreciate the women we have in our lives. Grandmothers, mothers, daughters, friends, colleagues — we all have women in our lives who mean the world to us.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is to embrace equity. So, what does it mean to “embrace” equity? For us at Vancity, it means treating everyone — regardless of age, gender, race, sexuality, or ability — with dignity, respect, and equal opportunity.
I’m proud to write that over the years, Vancity has continuously embraced equity and enabled women like me to reach their full potential, both personally and professionally.
Here are just a few examples of how Vancity has stood up for women since our founding in 1946.
Taking strides toward financial equality.
In 1946, Vancity gave its first loan of $100 to a woman. Since then, Vancity has been committed to creating a welcoming, inclusive environment, and providing financial services to people from all walks of life. But across all of North America it’s been quite a different story — and one that hasn’t yet reached an ending.
Let’s set the scene:
It’s 1960. The Flintstones just debuted, and Beatlemania has arrived in the United States, but a US or Canadian bank can still refuse a credit card to an unmarried woman. Even if a woman is married, she needs a male co-signer in order to start building her own credit.
Meanwhile, Vancity was ahead of the game. In 1961, we became the first financial institution to provide a mortgage to a woman without a male co-signer. The rest of Canada didn’t catch up for 3 years.
It’s milestones like these that have put Vancity on the map as a financial institution that embraces equity. Since our founding, we’ve considered it our responsibility to create opportunities for people to have easy access to their finances.
Setting the tone for fundamental women’s rights.
“Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls” is one of seventeen goals of the United Nations. The UN Secretary General himself stated that “achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world”.
Even still, according to the United Nations, as of 2019, women accounted for 39% of total employment, but 45% of global employment losses in 2020. Despite our global progress, there’s a long way to go before we truly reach financial equality.
At Vancity, we’re not waiting for change to happen — we’re making it for ourselves.
As of 2022, 66% of our Board of Directors, 53% of our executive leadership team, and 55% of all managers are women. We understand that having women in leadership roles and paying fairly are the best ways to achieve equity in the workplace.
This week, a legislation was introduced that will make it mandatory for BC employers to publicly release reports on pay transparency in an effort to close the gender pay gap. Vancity, on the other hand, has been transparent about how employees are paid since 1997. Take a look at our 2021 accountability report to learn more.
We’re working hard to go further, because we believe that equity should be the norm, not the exception. It’s part of our commitment to enabling and encouraging women, embracing gender equity, and supporting the full economic participation of women.
Supporting women in business.
Compared to men, women business owners face greater barriers to accessing financing and are more likely to be rejected or receive less funding.
When Vancity introduced the Unity Women Entrepreneur’s Program, we took “women in business” to the next level. This is a program specifically created to provide women and anyone who identifies as a woman or non-binary individual with more access to funds, networking opportunities, and specialized advice from experienced mentors.
When it comes to supporting women in taking ownership of their careers and gaining financial independence, Vancity has your back — on International Women’s Day and every day.
How you can support women on International Women’s Day.
Wondering how to support the important women in your life? Start small by thanking them for what they’ve done to inspire you or researching the importance of International Women’s Day and what it means for women around the world.
Better yet, put your money where your values are by supporting women-owned businesses, like Vancity members The Good Chocolatier, Yoggu and Kula Foods.
Most importantly, be a leader and an ally who stands up for women’s rights. Seize any opportunity you can to guide and support women as we celebrate each other and embrace equity this International Women’s Day, and every day as we look toward a more equitable future.