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Gender equity

Fewer than 30 per cent of HRM workforce is women

Councillor “almost embarrassed” about representation of men over women

2 min read
caption Women make up only 7 per cent of IAFF 268, the Halifax firefighter union.
Jeff Toth

The Halifax Regional Municipality took concrete steps towards balancing gender in its workforce on Monday.

The Executive Standing Committee’s HRM Workforce Report for 2017-2018 showed women make up less than 30 per cent of workers. Specifically, only 29.1 per cent are female, while 70.9 per cent are male.

At Monday’s executive committee meeting, Coun. Richard Zurawski put forth a motion asking Chief Administrative Officer Jacques Dubé to create recommendations to improve gender parity. 

“I feel almost embarrassed when I look at 70 per cent male versus 30 per cent female. It’s reflected in council, I mean we’ve got 14 councillors here and only two that are women,” said Zurawski. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. In this day and age, it’s not good enough.”

Catherine Mullally, director of human resources and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, said her office is working on several initiatives to increase workforce diversity.

“Those are our goals; to increase representation from underrepresented communities across the board in all facets of the work that were doing, and that would include females,” said Mullally.

More than 80 per cent of the workers are unionized. Several councillors and Mullally herself pointed out that the lowest number of women workers are in unions that employ individuals in jobs that are “untraditional” for women, like firefighters and bus drivers.

“To me we’re hiring the best qualified,” said Coun. Russell Walker.

“When you look down the list … I know many young women who have joined the police department and have quit because it’s not their thing,” said Walker. “You have to be a very special person to be a police officer in my opinion. Same thing with the fire department. It’s no easy job.”

Walker said a workforce that is evenly split between men and women might not be possible given the “categories of jobs.”

Zurawski disagreed.

“We should be looking at 50/50 in all things,” said Zurawski. “My mother was just as qualified as my father at everything, and in many other things she was probably more qualified.”

The motion was backed by the committee. 

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