Meeting Notes - March 20, 2018

Tonight trustees voted on a Notice of Motion that I brought forward at the last board meeting:

“That GECDSB discontinue use of Caboto Club facilities after the 2017/18 school year until such time as said club allows women to enjoy rights as full voting members with opportunity to join the board of directors and when trustees approve of the reinstated use of said facilities.”

Trustees supported the motion unanimously based on GECDSB’s stated values and several trustees spoke about the importance of the message this sends to not just girls but also to boys about gender equality. It is important that girls see that they should have an equal voice in the world as they grow up and enter into their careers. It is also important that boys understand that girls and women are still sometimes excluded based on gender and that they can play in role in breaking down barriers.

In my statement about the motion I noted that GECDSB has a philosophy that girls can be anything they want to be and we have programs to support it. I stated I believe we need to carry that philosophy through by standing up and saying it’s not acceptable for us to rent space for proms and graduations from a venue that excludes women from being members and from the board of directors for no apparent reason other than it’s been done this way for 100 years.

We know there is gender inequality in Canada. There is gender inequality on boards across Canada and governments are taking steps to address gender parity. Unfortunately Windsor has been found to be the worst city in Canada "to be a woman" for at least 2 years in a row due to inequality across several indicators considered in the report including board memberships and equality of pay. 

I argued that as a large publicly funded organization, GECDSB has a responsibility to help change this inequity by living our values and setting the right example for girls and boys. I asked trustees to imagine what our own board room would look like if women could not be trustees: only four of the ten trustees would remain.

I stated that the Caboto offers a very successful event venue that serves the entire broader community and because of this success they are accountable to the community, like it or not. There is nothing wrong with ethnic clubs or even gender-specific clubs that provide a specific service to that population. The Caboto Club was created at a time that Italian immigrants faced discrimination in Canada. They wanted to find a way to come together to support each other as well as to give back to the surrounding community which they have done for almost 100 years. However, there appears to be no reason that their membership needs to exclude women in order to execute their organizational objects. Other clubs have already changed similar policies.

Furthermore, the Caboto has a highly visible all-male board of directors with photos and bios on the website, but the women's auxiliary which also does great work in the community is nameless and faceless on the website. The club has a business directory for their members - which excludes women. Men cannot even become members unless their Italian background comes from their father.

It has been argued that the women’s auxiliary does not want to be members. Perhaps they don’t, but in 2014 a woman did try to become a member and she was declined because she is a woman. Furthermore, the women doing the work of the auxiliary club may not want to become voting members participating in the decision-making of the club. Not all women want to engage in organizational decision-making. Not all men do. However, I do know friends and colleagues who have decided not to join the Caboto Club because of this policy and they have joined another Italian Club instead. And I do know that there are members that want to see the policy change.

I was very proud of a student and teacher who spoke at the board meeting that night. They fearlessly argued that this was an opportunity for the Caboto Club to change an outdated policy and for the board to show girls and boys that we believe they should have equal opportunity. 

Unfortunately, the organizational leaders decided not to change the policy until they are "ready." That is, of course, their prerogative. However, it is also the prerogative of GECDSB to choose what organizations to do business with. I was pleased that trustees supported this motion because it meant that we are living our values by walking the walk. It’s important that GECDSB be a part of the change rather than complacent.

The next meeting is on April 3. I will be chairing the Education Committee meeting which will have a math Task Force update at that time. In the meantime, I hope that everyone has a fantastic Easter weekend!


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Jessica Sartori