Don’t brush off these 280 characters

Provincial government’s tweets symptomatic of a deeper gender bias

Earlier this year, the provincial government launched a campaign to try and attract nurses to Manitoba. And, for the most part, their recruitment tweets went unnoticed – until late March, when their official Twitter account shared an image of three women getting facials, including one wearing scrubs.

It’s a move the Manitoba Nurses Union called “demeaning to women and Manitoba’s nurses,” especially since, as many nurses who shared the tweet on their own social media pages pointed out, the current nursing shortage means longer hours and more stressful working conditions for Manitoba’s nurses – leaving them little time for sleep, let alone facials.

And, thanks to the provincial government’s decision to drop Manitoba’s health-care budget by $120 million, that situation likely won’t improve anytime soon.

But this Twitter campaign goes even further than laughable commentary from the out-of-touch local Tories. It’s symptomatic of how women are devalued, demeaned and disrespected in the workplace.

In 2017 (the last year for which statistics are available), women accounted for 91.3 per cent of all registered nurses in Manitoba, and similar patterns of mistreatment are evident in other women-dominated professions. The sports world is fraught with gender bias, as women’s games are relegated to the back pages of the sports section and the final seconds of highlight reels – if that.

Days after the Province posted the image of nurses getting facials, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) announced plans to cease operations on May 1, leaving women who want to play with few options.

In March, 28 members of the United States women’s soccer team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against their national soccer federation for institutionalized bias that impacts everything from their salaries to where and how often they play, the medical treatment they receive and how their team travels to matches.

As March Madness (and Women’s History Month in the United States) drew to a close, coverage of the college men’s basketball tournament dominated sports media channels, while the women’s bracket only really drew a few, sporadic headlines as they reached the Final Four.

As Barry Svrluga wrote in The Washington Post as a response to the US women’s national team’s lawsuit, “stop thinking about equal compensation as the result of (systemic changes), and start thinking of it as the reason change happens.”

So stop trivializing women’s contributions with insensitive tweets. Across the board, we’re overworked and certainly underpaid – and these disparities only become more pronounced as billboards promoting the Winnipeg Whiteout pop up around town and provincial health-care cuts loom on the horizon. It’s time to truly share the wealth and realize our teams are also worthy of celebratory street parties – and that we all deserve the funding and respect we need to actually get our jobs done.

Danielle is a writer, editor and marketer who has spent years working in sports media and more than enough hours waiting in Manitoba’s emergency rooms. In both those industries and beyond, the treatment of women needs to change.

The Manitoba Nurses Union encourages anyone worried about the nursing shortage and impact of health-care budget cuts to sign their Put Patients First petition, which is available online.

Published in Volume 73, Number 24 of The Uniter (April 4, 2019)

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