House Call with Carol Hughes

International Women’s Day celebrates diversity

International Women’s Day (Sunday, March 8) is an opportunity to celebrate change and focus on challenges that remain as we move towards a world where equality is an everyday occurrence and not something that must be strived for. This year’s theme in Canada is “because of you” which celebrates grassroots efforts to advance gender equality in communities across the country while honouring Canadians who are working to bring about change and those whose accomplishments should be acknowledged.
It is encouraging to see our celebration of this day focus on the many diverse communities that make up Canada. It helps us remember that we can always look deeper to understand our challenges and to see how change has been affected as well. To that end, Status of Women Canada is recognizing exceptional women who have been trailblazers, made contributions to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), human rights, the arts and politics. The department’s website celebrates many individuals in these areas and is well worth a visit to get a sense of how accomplished, diverse and driven the women who have shaped and continue to shape Canada are.

An example of an historic contributor is Dr. Ursula Martius Franklin, a respected physicist known for her achievements in the field of metallurgy. She was educated in Germany and joined the Ontario Research Foundation as a senior scientist in 1951. She was the first woman to become Professor of Metallurgy and Materials Science at the University of Toronto and was also a powerful advocate for women, peace and social justice. In the spirit of this year’s theme Dr. Franklin dedicated herself to bringing a humanitarian and feminist voice to the world of science. Her accomplishments were not unnoticed and she received many honours, including appointment to the Order of Canada and honorary degrees from several Canadian universities.

In our own communities, we can see examples of women who lead, both in real practical terms and as examples through their actions. As time marches on these role models have branched out from more traditional examples such as teachers or nurses to all kinds of professions and lines of work. In Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing you have sent a woman to parliament for 12 years now and in that time, I have seen women become more involved in municipal and Indigenous governments across the constituency. The examples grow with each passing year which gives progress a sense of inevitability.

As we celebrate these inspirational stories, we can remain aware that there is so much we can set ourselves to work toward. Simple issues such as equal pay for work of equal value should have been sorted out long ago but remain a persistent hindrance to true equality. Likewise, the world of professional sports remains male-dominated. The difficulties experienced with women’s professional hockey could be the poster-child for this problem. Widely celebrated as entertaining and exciting, the women’s game hasn’t been able to gain the traction needed to maintain the calibre of players that have provided such great Olympic sport. The NHL has become increasingly involved in the work being done to grow the women’s game, but there is still lots of work to do.

Still, we are raising girls who increasingly see places for themselves in the world that previous generations may never have dreamed of. Progress is being made, but one doesn’t have to look too far to be reminded that these gains are not always rooted in solid ground. Our job is to protect what has been hard-won while fostering dreams of what still can be.