A new Rosie the Riveter-inspired movement for the women in Canada’s workforce today
“We Can Do It!” boomed the character we now know as Rosie the Riveter, exhorting women to join the war effort in the 1940s. It worked — we won, as women’s participation in the American workforce increased from 27 per cent to almost 37 per cent by 1945, forever changing the view of women as a major economic contributor.
At least, we thought it was forever. A new war, against a global pandemic and its crushing economic impact, is making it plainly clear that a Rosie-like empowerment movement is needed again.
She has a new, modern face. The Prosperity Project wants every Canadian to see that face, and take action to implement meaningful change. The Prosperity Project is a not-for-profit organization created by more than 60 influential women across the country to ensure women are supported and empowered in Canada’s economic recovery.
Much like Rosie was an iconic symbol in her day, we’ve launched “It’s Not Complicated,” a series of eye-catching images built around idioms like “It’s not rocket science,” “It’s not brain surgery” and “It’s not high finance.” Those are phrases we use — ironically — to point out thinking that should be obvious. Not coincidentally, these idioms also reference careers that are stereotypically male.
There’s nothing ironic about the message: we have a collective responsibility to empower and encourage women to strive for successful careers in all fields. Female rocket scientists — or brain surgeons or CFOs or precision welders — should no longer be an anomaly or a rare exception.
It’s Not Complicated encourages women, especially young women, to consider “non-traditional” career paths. (As an aside, I propose we expunge that phrase from our lexicon. Those “traditions” should have been lost generations ago.) Women should have no qualms about pursuing professions in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, skilled trades and leadership. These are areas where women are profoundly under-represented. Let’s change this.
What we are talking about isn’t just women making choices — it’s about enabling those choices. When Rosie spurred women into munitions factories, the rest of society had to make some significant adjustments. We need that again. Let’s start with national child care supports. More equitable sharing of household duties is another long-overdue shift. Gender parity — both for compensation and opportunity — must be the standard, not an elusive ideal.
There has been extensive commentary in recent times about how women have been adversely impacted by COVID-19 and the “she-cession” the pandemic has caused. Much as Rosie the Riveter became an enduring emblem of women’s empowerment, we want the faces in It’s Not Complicated to be the rallying point for today’s Canadian women — a unifying symbol of the urgent need for systemic change to boost women’s advancement.
This is the new Rosie, the face of women in the Canadian workforce. Together, let’s make her voice heard. We Can Do It — again.