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The Report of the Task Force on the Status of Women in the Government of the Federation and in Education in B.C.

BCTF Task Force on the Status of Women, 1971

One key element in the development of the BCTF was the Task Force on the Status of Women that initiated a process in the BCTF that changed the organization. The report led to the creation of a staff position of Coordinator of the Status of Women Program and the creation of a provincial committee and positions on the executive of all locals. Policies and activities were aimed at consciousness-raising and structural changes to encourage the participation of women in the federation. The provincial and local network of women changed the BCTF in many ways.

The report of the Task Force to the 1973 AGM was met with laughter, sexist comments and rudeness from some of the mostly male AGM delegates.

Some quotes from the Task Force report give a sense of the climate of the day:

The Problem as It Exists

Although over 53% of the BCTF membership is female, we see reluctance on the part of female teachers to strive for higher positions and to demonstrate a willingness to accept responsibility for the government of the Federation. Our organization is the weaker because the majority of our membership is female, passively accepting a non-decision-making role. As we are able to encourage this group to participate fully in the democratic process of our profession we will gain in strength. This lack of involvement on the part of female teachers extends to all levels of education.

In the past it has been suggested that women do not become involved because they do not seek positions of leadership and heavy responsibility. The obvious and most important question then is 'why'?

Women have been defined traditionally through their biological functions--sexual and reproductive. As teachers we are part of an education system which supports and maintains this status quo by inculcating values that perpetuate rigid role differences. Children are taught society's concept of what is masculine and feminine. Prescribed textbooks and other school literature provide socially acceptable models which stress qualities of independence and leadership for boys and dependence and passivity for girls.

"Girls need special help in overcoming these pressures of society. Early in their lives they must be shown the implications of educational choices, the wide options from which they can choose, and the way that custom has created divisions of work between men and women. This help should come from their families, teachers and guidance counsellors." (Page 181, Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada.)

It is no wonder then that female teachers being products of this same educational system should tend to underestimate their human potential and ability to act on it. Many women are afraid of not conforming to the subordinate role assigned to them by tradition.

Some examples from the 46 recommendations in the Report:

Recommendation 5 that all contractual clauses of local associations which do not allow a woman to work until full term must be deleted.

Recommendation 9 that the requirement for female teachers to produce their marriage certificates be eliminated.

Recommendation 10 that local associations discuss with school boards and district superintendents present policies and practices in regard to hiring teachers, with a view that there be equal opportunity for appointment regardless of sex, marital status or dependents.

Recommendation 20 that all BCTF and local association publications use both pronouns, 'he' and 'she' (he/she) when previously the pronoun he has been used in reference to a teacher at any level.

Recommendation 21 that the practice of separate staff rooms be eliminated.

Recommendation 22 that we affirm policy 10.C.19 "that the Public Schools Act be amended to provide that teachers' attire should be a matter of individual choice, not determined by school policy."

Recommendation 34 PSA groups and librarians should be made aware of the discrimination evident in books and be encouraged to work actively to do away with it. Non-sexist material should be made available to them.

Three members of the Task Force were later elected to the BCTF executive committee: Julia Goulden, Gale Neuberger, and Linda Shuto. Linda Shuto was the first BCTF Status of Women Coorinator and later a member of the BCTF executive committee. Gale Neuberger (Tyler) worked for a term as Assistant Director in the PD Division. The Task Force chairperson, Dorothy Glass, was later one of the first women appointed as a Superintendent.