Women and Girls: Inclusive Leadership

Labour Views

By Lorraine Rousseau

Women are often overlooked for leadership roles because they do not fit the mold of an ‘ideal leader’. Women and girls have found their voices, speak their minds and challenge gender stereotypes. Women belong at the table. In the union or labour context, this will be read as bargaining table. This is true, but it’s true in all decision-making aspects at governments, schools, labour movement, work, home, within communities, etc. Women belong at the table everywhere.  

All of you would nod in agreement. It’s 2022 and it doesn’t make sense to say otherwise.

Women belong at the table, but are they always at the table?

There is no doubt that women and girls in Canada have gained ground-breaking achievements over the years. Life for women and girls is not the same compared to what it was a century, decades or even years ago. However, rights denied to us, rights disenfranchised to us, rights that we were compelled to take: these are the rights bestowed to others. Through our strength and leadership have prevailed to claim. Today, we owe this to all the strong women who’ve paved the path for us. Without their resilience and courage, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Today, my column is a throwback to International Women’s Day that we celebrated a week ago.

I’m proud to say that women make up about 60 percent of Public Service Alliance of Canada membership across the country. With union women’s hard work and strive towards equality, a lot has been achieved: ground-breaking advances in pay equity, the first-ever collective agreement clause providing sexual harassment protection, paid maternity and parental leave, same sex benefits, domestic violence leave and much more.

The fight is not over

All those ground-breaking achievements within the labour movement are worth celebrating. We all know that a battle won in the strive towards equality is a win for all. But I realize that despite all the gains, 1.5 million women continue to live in poverty in Canada. Around the world, including Canada, women spend more time doing unpaid work than men. The pandemic made it harder for women. The mandates, although meant to protect our communities by curbing the spread of COVID-19, have had social, economic and health impacts.

Women, girls, Two Spirit, trans and non-binary people are at the highest risk of gender-based violence. The numbers are shocking. According to World Health Organization, one in three women will become a victim of abuse over their lifetime. Approximately, every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. Advocates have described gender-based violence a “shadow pandemic” with a surge in numbers during the past couple years.

We have a lot of work to do. Women are the leaders in the battle against sexism, misogyny and inequality. It’s not going to be easy. But those who have come before us paved the way, and our role is to continue the fight for equality.

Thank you to women leaders

Women leaders across the country, in their roles as frontline and healthcare workers, politicians, teachers, community leaders, grassroots activists, environmentalists… (and the list goes on) have proved that we can have a better future when women are at the table. A just recovery from this pandemic must mean a recovery in which no woman, girl or LGBTQ2+ individual is left behind.

Northern women leaders are resilient. Thank you to all the women of the North. Your hard work, your actions as leaders, your inspiring achievements and focus on gender equity demonstrate the strength of women and girls here in the North. We celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8. Let’s turn every day to a women’s day in which we take action towards equality and social justice.

“I want for myself what I want for other women, absolute equality,” ~ Agnes Macphail, first women Member of Parliament.

This article originally appeared in the Yellowknifer on March 16, 2022