Sylvia Gold's Address at CCLOW's Annual General Meeting: June 21, 1985, Toronto
If my memory serves me well, it was Margaret Fulton, as newly- appointed President of Mt. St. Vincent University who first introduced me to CCLOW. In her address to a Canadian Teachers' Federation conference in Halifax in the mid-to-late 70's, she talked about the learning needs for adult women, focusing particularly on those who, for one reason or another, did not acquire labour market skills during their public school years. She described the living conditions and hardships of women who are ill-equipped to handle survival in the Canadian economy. Her arguments centered on CCLOW's goals of ensuring training for women who find themselves in this situation.
As a member of the audience, I was struck by the clear focus, a kind of "no nonsense" focus of the organization. There was no talk of nebulous "life skills", which were the rage elsewhere in training programs. This was a practical approach, a dedication to help women become financially independent which was and remains an essential goal. Especially as there is an increase in the number of women who are solely responsible for their own support and the support of dependents.
I would like to comment, only briefly on the role of work in the personal self-esteem of women. No doubt many of us here identify ourselves according to the paid work we do. Our society expects us to do this.
Those of us whose work is challenging and educative may understandably feel this way. Women whose work consists of repetitive or boring or even unhealthy tasks do not share this enthusiasm. For them it is a means to an end. But wherever we fit, we all benefit from the wages attached to this work. This is what puts food on the table, a shelter over our heads, and the ability to enjoy our after-work hours. The important fact is, all women should have access to paid work. CCLOW is an organization devoted to seeing that the learning opportunities women need for employment, as well as the government policies and programs needed to see that training facilities and jobs are available, are in place.
I have met your president, Lisa Avedon, in the most interesting places: conferences organized by Employment and Immigration on training; a conference on women and finance; a meeting of individuals from different sectors on skills training. Through her, your voice is being heard in clear and positive ways. She is indeed being consistent and visible in putting forward CCLOW's mandate.
I would like to make one more comment about your mandate. My closest connection with CCLOW has been with the Ottawa chapter. It is composed of women active in various undertakings: government jobs, private sector jobs; freelance work; and college and university teaching.
It is a motivated and creative group, whose efforts relate to the job situation in Ottawa, which includes a diminishing public sector and, we hope, a growing high technology sector. This group examines the situation as a whole and tries to involve the private sector in training programs for women. And this illustrates what I think is an important dimension of your work: attention to public policy and funds, and a concentration on local needs and possibilities. This approach is essential in a country such as ours, of diverse climate, geography, historical contexts, economic structures, and cultural heritage. We know that a "made in Ottawa" policy cannot work unless it has the flexibility to vary according to regional realities. This centralized/decentralized approach is not an easy one to conceptualize, develop or operate. But I believe it is the only one that is feasible for us today.
A simple illustration makes the point. You no doubt recall the assurance with which government policies based training needs on the concept of the needs of mega-projects of the type that were anticipated in the oil- producing provinces in the west. Training programs across the country were training welders, in the belief that this skill would be a base skill for this growing industry. Talk about putting all eggs in one basket! As a corollary question, we might ask how many women were trained for these potential jobs. The question is academic. The mega-project dream did not materialize. Now if the various chapters of CCLOW had been able to advise the government on the types of programs needed across the country and how to go about training people in the required skills, the attention to regional needs would have been heeded. I know that economic predictions are totally fallible; nevertheless there are skills which people can learn on which they can add new learning as conditions require. This is what training and learning opportunities are about.
Now, what is and can be the relationship between CCLOW and the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women?
Let me be sure you know what the Council is. It is a government- appointed body of up to 30 members, including an Eastern and Western Vice-President. The main office is in Ottawa. This is where the research and communications staff is located, and the main distribution centre is housed. The President and Vice- Presidents are full-time paid executive members of the Council, with the President carrying the chief executive and administrative roles. Our annual budget is approximately $2.3 million; our total staff complement is 31 people.