For over 100 years, March 8, International Women’s Day (IWD), has served to celebrate the advancement of rights for women and girls and their achievements and successes, as well as being a call to continued action to address the still ongoing imbalance of gender equality in the home, educational institutions, workplace and halls of power.
The theme assigned by the United Nations for 2021 is Women in Leadership: achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world, while that on the IWD website is Choose to Challenge.
We can celebrate female leadership in the response to the pandemic, and we can choose to challenge the existing inequalities, biases and stereotyping being revealed in the response.
Let’s express our gratitude to our health-care professionals and honour their work on our behalf.
We hasten to say that in doing so, we do not forget nor do we diminish the work of the many men engaged in this work. The strengths of women and men complement each other in teamwork.
As we have witnessed in B.C. with Dr. Bonnie Henry, women have performed very well in leadership roles during the pandemic, and countries that have women Heads of State have responded better than most to dealing with the crisis rapidly, effectively and decisively.
Research has found that women have strengths in the areas of empathy, crisis management, nurturing, compassion, communication, listening, flexibility and teamwork that make them good leaders. But only 20 countries currently have female heads of government.
In Canada, despite the fact that women make up 50 per cent of the population, women number only 29 per cent of Members of Parliament. In B.C., only 39 per cent of MLA’s are women. At the local level, there are only two women on the seven-member City of Vernon council.
We can do much to encourage and support girls and young women to want to pursue positions of leadership in politics, including:
1. Read books about notable women at home to boys and girls alike. The local library will be able to provide age-appropriate materials. This provides future possibilities for children.
2. Talk about women in political roles (even if you may not agree with their political stance). Point out their responsibilities and how important their position is for improving and running our society.
3. Encourage girls and young women to be courageous in challenging the status quo, and support them in doing so.
4. Enrol girls in a club, sport, or organization. Encourage them to run for student council or class president.
5. Be a mentor.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama said, “I’m absolutely confident that for two years if every nation on earth was run by women, you would see a significant improvement across the board on just about everything… living standards and outcomes.” Now that’s a goal to strive towards!
Let us take some time on March 8 to express our gratitude to, and our encouragement for, the women in our lives who have provided leadership to us. One could write a letter to a female city councillor, MLA, MP or Cabinet Minister and thank them for the work they do for our city, riding or country.
To find out what the experience of being a female politician is like, the Canadian Federation of University Women Vernon invites you to a virtual presentation by MLA Harwinder Sandhu, City councillors Dalvir Nahal and Kari Gares and Teresa Durning Harker, Constituency Assistant for MP Mel Arnold. The event takes place on March 8, at 7:00 PM. For more information, go to cfuwvernon.zenfolio.com. To register and receive a link to the presentation send an email request to email@example.com.
On behalf of the Canadian Federation of University Women Vernon Board,
Barbara Van Sickle, Issues Convenor
Bev Weidman, Secretary